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Municipal Affairs dept looking into viable alternatives to curb plastic bag use

Municipal Affairs dept looking into viable alternatives to curb plastic bag use
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Kolkata: The state Municipal Affairs department is experimenting with two substitutes as an alternative to plastic to curb its indiscriminate use. Plastic is one of the major causes of pollution in the city and its adjoining areas.

"The use of plastic bags is a major problem in our city. However, we have not been able to control the issue as we have not got any substitute to plastic bags, with which we can encourage citizens to shun plastic use. We are presently experimenting with PLA (polylactic acid) and starch based bags to assess whether bags made of one of these two materials can be used as an alternative," said Subrata Gupta, Principal Secretary of the Urban Development and Municipal Affairs department.

PLA is compostable and as it goes into the soil, it degrades within three months and leaves no residue. The starch based bags degrade immediately, but the problem with it is its failure to withstand moisture. It tears immediately when it comes into contact with moisture.

"At present we are not in a position to launch any of these substitutes, but we are hopeful of something positive in this regard in four to five months," Gupta said.

He pointed out that the practice of carrying a shopping bag to the market- one for fruits and vegetables and another for fish or meat is on the wane among the citizens, as they are always offered a plastic bag by the shopkeeper, when they go to the market.

"It is thrown away after use, following which it goes into the drain and clogs it," he added.

It may be mentioned that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation is

also trying out various means to dissuade people from using plastic that clogs the underground sewer lines, resulting in waterlogging at various parts of the city. It often causes damage to the pumps as well, which are used to clear the accumulated water from roads.

"Awareness among the citizens is the key to fight the menace of plastic. We have just concluded a competition in the borough level, encouraging efficient handling of solid waste management that also includes minimum use of plastic," said Swapan Samaddar, Member, Mayor-in-Council (Environment), KMC.

The KMC will soon hold a meeting with the association of all its markets to push for shunning the use of plastic bags.

"We will also hold awareness campaigns involving school children," Samaddar added.

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