“Say Good-Bye to Polythene Bags and Cups,” a sign announces in Tamil and English beside one of the final hairpin bends in the two hour climb to Kodaikanal, a hill station at 2,000 metres atop Tamil Nadu’s Palani hills. Upon entering Kodai, the dramatic impact of the municipality’s two year old ban on disposable plastic bags and cups is immediately evident. Plastic litter is noticeably absent from Kodai’s beautiful lake, streets and forested hillsides. Also not present are heaps of smoldering rubbish–a common sight and smell in most Indian localities.
The ban’s impact is easy to assess: just look at Kodai’s horribly polluted neighboring localities that have no ban. At Pillar Rocks, a popular tourist destination six kilometers from Kodai, plastic trash is strewn throughout the vegetation, and patches of scorched plastic blemish the landscape
Many localities have banned plastic carrybags, but few enforce their ban. For example, Pondicherry’s ban exists in word only: every shop packs goods in plastic bags—sometimes in more than one bag—mocking the government’s rule. Pondicherry’s officials make no effort to enforce the ban.
In contrast, Kodaikanal’s ban demonstrates that life is not only possible without plastic bags: it is even better without them.
Kodaikanal’s merchants report that municipal authorities regularly conduct inspections and issue intimidating fines to shops that violate the ban.
Plastic bags have become so pervasive that it is difficult to imagine life without them. Some argue that we must accept plastic bags because “we can’t turn back the clock.” But Kodaikanal’s ban demonstrates that life is not only possible without plastic bags: it is even better without them.
A remarkable variety of goods can be packed in paper bags made of old newspaper.