With all the sector heads of Tsirang dzongkhag administration carrying Clean Bhutan’s biodegradable jute bags to the Sunday vegetable market, the dzongkhag administration has initiated to ban plastic and minimise its usage.

Few students of Damphu Central School also joined the sector heads and went around explaining the damage plastics cause to the environment.

The vendors were told not to provide plastics as carrying bags henceforth to the customers. They were encouraged to reuse plastics if at all they needed to.

Vendors agreed that plastic was a burden. They said that while they were not keen to use plastics because it cost them extra, it was customers who demand plastics.

They said that without providing plastics, customers would not buy their product.

A vendor, Kunti Maya, said she is happy to know that she need not buy plastics anymore to sell her produce.

However, she said there is a need for a substitute, which is cheaper than plastic and good for the environment.

Another vendor, Chencho, said she buys at least a kilogram of plastic every month to package and sell her produce. A kilogram of plastic cost her Nu 200. “Banning plastic is saving money for me. I’m more than happy to comply,” she said.

The dzongkhag administration has agreed to set up a stall where vendors and customers can buy biodegradable bags and jute bags.

Dzongkhag environment officer, Dorji Wangdi, the programme was conducted at the vegetable market to reach the maximum number of people.

He said the dzongkhag is creating awareness and encouraging the residents on minimising the use of plastics or reusing them. “Implementation and compliance are expected to be more stringent with time,” he said. “If things don’t change, we have the comply with the Waste Management Act.”

While most were positive of the initiative, some raised concerns on how sustainable the initiative would be.

They said that it is not the first time the dzongkhag or the country took steps to ban plastics but only to increase its use.

A shopkeeper in Damphu, Nima Gyeltshen, said that much before this initiative, he tried to stop providing plastics to customers but that brought loss to his business.

“If this initiative has to succeed, a complete ban is what would make the real difference, more than an awareness,” he said adding that sellers and customers should be penalised. “Otherwise being plastic-free would remain a far-fetched dream.”

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang