The thromde is creating awareness before it strictly implements the ban 

Environment: Almost a decade after the ban was imposed Samdrupjongkhar thromde will reinstate the ban that was never lifted on the use of plastic bags, as per the decision of the 13th thromde tshogde.

Members of the thromde tshogde decided the ban must be implemented given the increasing plastic waste in the community.

The thromde has however not yet issued a notification on the ban.

Thromde’s environment officer Pema Chokey said they are creating awareness now so that the notification doesn’t come as a surprise.  The municipality is also working on the penalty amount and studying whether both shopkeepers and customers should be penalized. The trade rules state a person seen using plastic should be fined Nu 500 following two warnings.

Pema Chokey said once the ban is in place, thromde would strictly implement it if it wants to reduce plastic waste mounting in the Samdrupjongkhar landfill, located two kilometres away. Everyday, two trucks dispose about three metric tons of waste.

“We don’t have accurate data to show but based on “eye survey,” and the truck’s capacity, almost 50 percent of waste dumped at the landfill is plastic,” Pema Chokey said. “We recovered almost 60 tons of waste from another landfill in Dewathang during a cleaning campaign and now we have stopped using that landfill.”

Shopkeepers and vegetable vendors have already been informed about the ban and are asked not to give goods in plastic bags. Thromde officials are also going door-to-door to create awareness among the residents.

Pema Chokey said there has been a good response from them but they suggested that customers also needed awareness since a majority visits shops without a bag.

“It’s noticed that when one goes for vegetable shopping, the person returns home with at least 10 plastics,” she said.

The members have also decided to avoid using paper or plastic cups and plates during official meetings and have asked Dratshang to inform visitors to not bring packaged food as offerings.

Most shopkeepers and vegetable vendors welcome the thromde’s decision, but feel this could hamper their business since the customers leave the shop for another when they are asked to bring their own shopping bags.

Another shopkeeper Chimmi said the ban would actually help them cut spending on buying plastic bags from border town where they pay about Nu 180 for a kilogram of plastic.

Vegetable vendors said when they inform customers that they don’t have plastic bags, the customers snap back asking if they are supposed to then carry vegetables in their pockets.

“But some are nice and buy cement or paper bag from us to carry the vegetables,” Dawa, a 60-year-old vegetable vendor said. “It is mostly the literate people who need to be educated because they are the ones who come without a bag.”

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar