Convenience, at what cost?

July 13, 2007

This one has been brewing in my mind for quite some time.

These days, whenever you go out for shopping, you will hardly find anyone carrying shopping bags.  Considering the variety of cool, affordable bags available in the market these days, I thought carrying a bag would be quite a fashion statement.  Alas! As always, I seem to be out-of-touch with the world 😦  The shopkeepers hand out their stuff in plastics bags of all sizes, shapes and colours.  Be it your local grocery storewala, the bhajiwala, fancy malls, retail stores, garment shops, toy shops, local bakery, mochi, mithaiwala, chanawala – they all keep their own carry bags.  It’s given.  You don’t even have to ask for it.  Infact, I get the impression that they would get offended if you assumed they didn’t keep those bags.  You will rarely be asked for your own shopping bag.  And in case you are one of those rare species who actually carry a shopping bag, the plastic bags will simply be shoved into your own bag defeating the whole purpose of carrying your own bag!  Bah!

It really bugs me.

I’m definitely not one of those humble, “I’m just a ordinary, mortal human being” types.  Far from it.  But, well, hmm…I’m not really an expert in environmental issues.  But isn’t it easy to see that polythene is a environmental hazard.  Hmm…I thought it was pretty evident.  Aw…well, just in case it wasn’t, let me tell you – it is.  Ask Google, I’m not making up any of this stuff!  Some time back there was a drive by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) that aimed at banning the use of polythene bags that were less than 20(?) microns in thickness.  I guess it had something to do with these thin polythene bags being a source of many blocked drains flooding the roads causing health hazards.  Just look around, I mean not indoors, just get out and look around – You will find them strewn acorss roadsides, river banks, parks, trees, hillside leaving everything looking ugly! Eeeks!  Boy, managing plastic waste is tough.  And besides polythene does not degrade or decompose easily.  So, this move by PMC of banning polythene bags was a welcome move.  PMC went all out trying to to educate junta about the ill effects of polythene bags.  Ah yes, there was fine too if you were caught asking for/giving polythene bags, but that is beside the point.  I mean they made an honest effort.  And if you know anything about PMC, or for that matter anything about numerous Municipal Corporations across the length and breadth of our country, I’m sure you’d applaud these efforts.  And I personally thought it was working well and you could actually see that people had started using shopping bags.  But, the ban did not last long and was withdrawn shortly.  No points for guessing why.  If policy decisions are to be taken with commerce and profit in view, we cannot expect any responsible steps from any governing body.  Sigh.

Talking of big malls and retail shops like Reliance Fresh, Trumart, Food Bazaar etc. that are sprouting in every nook and corner – Boy! they have their own attitude.  They leave you with no option but to take stuff in their bags.  If you are carrying your own bags, you have to leave them outside at the baggage counter.  A polite request to use your own bag, at the time of billing, is met with confused/bemused look.  At times the support staff even refuses to entertain your request.  There have been times when, in a particularly aggressive mood, I’ve followed up with my requests right up the management.  And I have to say that they haven’t been particularly helpful.  Mostly the approach is to make an exception for you, just so that you don’t create a scene.  There is absolutely no drive to make it easy for people to use their own shopping bags, leave alone encouraging people to stop using plastic bags.  Come to think of it, these big malls and retail shops can actually made a difference by encouraging people to use their own bags.  Provide free parking to people not taking plastic bags, give 5-10% discount – smart incentives can politely drive the point home and do good too!

I have to admit that, innumerable times even I have just given up and shutup my guilty conscience and gone with the flow without a wimper or protest.  And with reluctant support from people concerned, at times it all seems worthless.  It really feels sad when you see people give scant regard to the issue, that too when the effects are there for you to see.  We aren’t even talking of environmentatl issues where you don’t see the effects with your own eyes.

I agree it may not be possible to totally ban the use of plastic bags, but one can still make an effort to reduce the use as much as possible.  Atleast this much can be expected from people like us who can understand the detrimental effects of these bags.  And when we say reducing the use, it means saying ‘NO‘ to plastic bags.  Reusing these bags as garbage bags or for any other purpose won’t help, only reducing the use can.  Every ‘no’ counts.  Every trip to the market, with those cool, colourful jute bags or for that matter old-style jholas swinging from your shoulder counts 🙂  So, why not?

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2 Responses to “Convenience, at what cost?”

  1. Reena Says:

    It was not a problem before. I remember my mother always carrying a shopping bag when she went vegetable or grocery shopping. Indians were unknowingly doing a lot of good for the environment. As the RSS spouts westernization is going to take the country to doldrums. Ironically the western world is become more conscious.
    IKEA, the giant Swedish furniture/home decor store has come up with a good idea. They make the customer pay 25 cents for each plastic bag. The option is get your own bag. I think educating junta may help, but given the vastness of our country it may prove to an Herculean task.

  2. akira Says:

    Indeed it is very convenient not to carry your own shopping bags but if only people who mindlessly accept plastic bags understood the value of sacrificing convenience for a good cause!…

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