Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Plastic banned! Play with paper instead!

I almost don't want to award this one last time now, and share what I think of as a secret treasure, but share I must. Sigh... Let me introduce to you Stephen LeQuier, 'photographer, graphic artist and Photoshop enthusiast'. I may add that he is an wonderful digital artist, though he claims he is still learning! His blog, titled 'Trimoon's blog' is a really really cool place to check daily for I never know what I will find. In fact, I enjoy going through it so much that rather than follow it daily, I use it as a sort of treat, dipping into it at random intervals for amusement and inspiration. Unfortunately, I have never been able to leave a comment because his site requires a separate registration, and although I have tried, it gets stuck somewhere or the other and I give up... So let me say it now: thanks Trimoon, for everything you have shared.

Today, tucked away in one little corner of the newspaper, was this piece -Delhi government notifies blanket ban on plastic bags. According to the correspondent, the government has banned “use, storage and sale” of plastic bags of any kind or thickness, in all places where you get the bags after shopping. Break the ban and the punishment is a maximum penalty of Rs 1 lakh or five years’ imprisonment or both, according to the Environment Protection Act.

On paper, this is pretty impressive, but I do wonder if such a blanket ban is enforceable, practical, or even useful. Consider one person, any one imaginary person, living on this earth. We don't know what its gender is, or age; education, awareness, job or residence; we know nothing about the relationships it has flourishing or floundering. All we know is that this person is dealing with the day to day living as we are. Happy or sad, hard or easy, simple or complex as life may be for that person, there still are, and always will be, choices to make, decisions to take and priorities to deal with on a day to day basis. What then are the chances that saving the planet from plastic bags will be as high on its priority list as, say sourcing food or settling an illness? Something which must be done, for which a willing cost and inconvenience will be incurred cheerfully? Ought to be, certainly, but is it likely?

Consider then that the majority of Delhi's population is unaware, and unconcerned about the environment. That plastic bags are a convenience, worth more than just the grocery or merchandise they are used to carry. Pack foods, use as raincoats, or cover up the jhuggi with it. Line bins for protection against rodents and termites. Use to collect garbage in. Store clothes in. Take books to school in. Is there any aspect of life, at any level which is free of plastic bags?

Yes, plastic is a damned nuisance for the planet, choking up our lifelines in one way or the other. Yes, cheap alternatives are probably being researched but will take eons to be out in the market. Yes, something needs to be done about it, now.

But, will a total blanket ban such as this work? Is it practical? Sitting on my table right at this moment, is bread in a plastic, some raisins in a ziploc pouch, and cds in plastic covers. There is methi in a plastic bag, waiting to be plucked. A magazine still in the plastic pouch it came in. A new box of garbage bin liner bags and other stuff from the local store, in a large plastic bag, without which I would not have been able to carry it. Clothes from the drycleaners, individually wrapped in plastic. Some of these uses are easy to restrict, others not so. I do not know, for instance, what else to use for lining the cardboard boxes I have books in, in which I have gammaxene powder on the walls. (Another internationally banned substance by the way.) Will not a selective ban, say according to bag thickness, be more practical? Wouldn't it easier and more practical to slowly decrease bag usage? So far as I know, nobody has been able to stop people from having sex in an unapproved manner but promoting condoms has reduced the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.

As has effective sex education. A ban, which is, and is seen as the government telling you not to do something, is not in the least likely to be useful in changing mindsets. Educating people about it is. Providing viable alternatives, making it appear cool and fashionable, is. Providing incentives, charging fees at the larger outlets (not the streetside vendor who has enough troubles without being asked to provide the bag inventories too), charging colonies for waste disposal, is.

And yet, the ban would be useful in that it would definitely reduce, grudgingly or not, plastic use. If it were enforceable. Is it? In totaliy? The enforcement of mandatory car emission checks, even though unpopular at the time, was possible because the number of cars is still limited compared to the population. Even though the staff of health and environment departments, food and supplies officers and SDMs are empowered to enforce the ban, I have my doubts...

Today, for a change, I am not talking of an online site for kids. Instead, here is 'How to make simple pop ups' by Robert Sabuda. A site to delight all you arty crafty people out there! (Is Winnie the Pooh who is not really the Pooh, reading this?) Pop up books are so spell binding for young children, that we remember them with delight decades later. But have you ever tried to make your own? Robert Sabuda is a children's book illustrator and writer, who has a passion for pop up books and a studio full of paper engineers. Did you know the meaning of this term before? Did you know how long it might take to make a pop up book you read to your child? Or how many pieces of paper may be required to make an intricate scene?

If you want to make simple pop ups, just go ahead and check out an example or two here. We haven't progressed beyond the very first, very basic one, because even that has been a delight to play with. But if you want to be entranced by the very world of pop up books, explore the site some more! Get the newsletter, explore the pop ups, check out the whats new archives for more wow! ideas and some tips as well. Or buy something :)

Here is the url -

P.S. I wish newspapers, or at least their websites, would carry some information about the sources they have obtained a news bit from. Would it have been too difficult for HT to carry the full notification as a link, or at least link to an online source if there was one? Why do we always have to have news distilled and processed for us, as if we were unable to understand it ourselves? Surely something like a mini reference list would be easy to manage, for those who want to know more?

P.P.S. As this site is for offline work, I am assigning no star rating to it.


Garima & Amitabh said...

Grin!! U Bet she ws reading this & promptly bookmarked the site :)
The timing could not have been better as i sent Ursheita off 2 school really happy today with a promise that we would make a Story book once she gets back home :)
the pop-up would add another exciting dimention.
Do U read minds 2 ,, Or is this plain telepathy .....
Whatever it may be ,,, Cheers for this gr8 blog .
Totally luv it

Nino's Mum said...

My husband's into packaging - plastic - the kind used to make huge hoardings, wrap medicines before it goes into the foil, etcetra etcetra.
I used to fling this plastic is trash argument at him often, early in our relationship, till he one day sat down and made me count the various things in which I use plastic - my hallowed rafi cassettes - and then asked me if I wanted better waste recycle and disposal system, or no trees, because no amount of recycling will stop the trees from being cut down to make nice brown bags for the bakery.
In India we truly recycle our plastic bags - shopping bags become gift/storage bags, being used and used and used till it falls apart and is dumped. This is where legislation should come in. Where we are dumping it.

Swati said...

Wow, two people commenting at the same time - my first! Got to celebrate. Dropped a mail to both of you :)

Swati said...

And, yes, I agree about the plastics, and other such stuff. Reduce, reuse, recycle - where does banning fit in?

Nature Walker said...

Banning often does just the reverse- make people aware that they are doing something- and get the thrill that they can despite a ban! It has happened on a lot of other occasions.
While we are still on plastic- have you thought back to try and remember what you used to do BEFORE plastic? Almost like BC ( or BP?!) WE used to have our buys wrapped in newspapers and tied with jute strings. It was only the rich and the swank stores that gave out plastic. That bag was coveted almost like a wedding saree! Brought out- used, de-wrinkled and kept safely away for another use. And then, there was plastic everywhere!
Now... creating awareness about how plastic chokes the earth and finding ways to dispose what cannot be reused or recycled would go farther than just banning the plastic.

And plastic is not the only thing we ought to learn more about. Batteries, old cell phones, laptops, CFLs ( Mercury!!!!!!!!!!) are among the few things that MUST ABSOLUTELY have policy on disposal. And not to forget medicines... what do you think is done to those expired drugs? Who picks them up and where do they go?
Conscientious multinationals do have a strict policy on burning what is expired beyond use by dates. What happens nearer home? In the garbage? Down the drain? And then? Charging ground water? Think of what is happening to our drinking and potable water...

Swati said...


(And remember those packets of dal and chawal from Super Bazaar when pre packed cereals were a rarity - mummy used to clean and save those for packing stuff in too!)