Mumbai: In a world of plastic intentions, plastic promises and plastic bags, while the latter are the city’s civic agency’s obvious priority, the other two components cannot be overlooked. Why else would Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which recently ran a campaign between June 17 and July 18 against plastic less than 50 microns thick, sell it back by the hordes to the highest bidder? The corporation has always insisted that the main reason for the 2005 floods in Mumbai was the uncontrolled use of the synthetic item.
According to civic officials, when the quantity of seized plastic reaches 1 lakh kg, BMC auctions it off. “Last year 1 lakh kg of plastic was sold at Rs 27 lakh. This practice has been going on for years as there is no other alternative with BMC to dispose of these items,” informed a senior civic official from the solid waste management department. While he added that the winning bidder is told to recycle, there is no means to verify whether he actually complies.
During its month-long drive, BMC gave instructions to all ward offices to set up a surveillance squad with four officers from various departments — including solid waste management, building and factory, maintenance, and security. Shopkeeper and manufacturers found breaking rules were penalised.
Running in circles
The civic body earns nearly Rs 50 lakh every year through the fines collected from those using banned plastic. The corporation then earns a tidy sum through the auction process. But, the whole purpose of keeping the city clean is defeated. Rajendra Bhonsale, deputy municipal commissioner (special) said, “We auction off the plastic, but it’s not like we do not monitor the buyers. The plastic has to be shredded and recycled.” But employees at ward offices don’t agree. An official from F-South ward said, “No one checks whether the buyers recycle or not. They usually just sell it further to make a profit.”
Standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale said, “We are in the process of setting up a system where plastic gets recycled or disposed of so that the drains do not get clogged. I will have to find out more on the complaints regarding the auctioning.”
According to BMC statistics, the city generates about 8,000 tonnes of garbage every day, of which 15 per cent comprises plastic waste. Ragpickers collect about 12 per cent of this and only three per cent reaches dumping grounds.
1 lakh: Kilos of plastic bags BMC auctioned last year
Rs 27 lakh: The money they raked in
Did you know?
A 100 per cent ban on plastic bags is in effect in Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Kerala and hill stations like Matheran.