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WHO PAYS THE BILL?

PLASTIC FREE GOA!

website: www.goacom.com/
community/pfgc/


plastic free goa
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intro: plastic shopping bags are becoming a major environmental concern in many countries around the world. The bags have blocked drains and caused severe floods in Bangladesh over the last couple of decades, costing thousands of people their lives. They have acquired a new identity as the ‘national flower’ of South Africa, getting caught in trees and fences, and Ireland’s ‘Clean and Green’ image was seriously threatened by intense plastic bag littering - until measures were taken to halt it.

The environmental implications of polyethylene bags that take hundreds of years to decompose are harsh. Negative consequences include: wasted resources locked away in millions of plastic bags in landfills, littering of landscapes and waterways, threats to wildlife (100,000 mammals and turtles are killed by plastic debris annually), and toxic gas emissions through burning. The number of plastic bags used by shoppers is also an indicator of our excessive level of consumption.

A number of countries are beginning to take positive measures to tackle this problem, including charging consumers a fee or banning them from the marketplace altogether. New technologies such as ‘bio plastics’ are also being introduced commercially. These are suitable for organic waste recovery systems and other specific uses but are no substitute for reducing excessive usage in the first place.

Goa’s revolt: government laws to tackle the problem of plastic bags have not been effective, so a community project is leading the way. Plastic is already being found to be the ‘most troublesome’ of the solid wastes that find their way into the municipal waste disposal system, often choking drains and leading to overflowing sewerage (causing severe health problems and flooded streets during monsoons).

Part of the campaign, led by the Goa Environment Federation together with the Peoples Movement for Civic Action, involves individuals donating old newspapers and magazines to local charitable organisations. These are cut into paper-bags of various sizes and sold to volunteer shops and pharmacies in order to reduce the use of plastic bags. Income generated from the bags is in turn helping the charity organisations to buy much needed provisions and medicines. Posters and leaflets highlighting the problems of plastic have been put up in some areas.

the campaign: the Plastic Free Goa campaign was started with a clean-up drive, lasting more than 80 days through the end of 2000, in which plastic rubbish was collected from across the state.

objective: to raise awareness among villagers about the danger of non-biodegradable waste and to collaborate with local businesses to limit plastic waste among tourists.

partnership: the Tourism Department of Goa worked with hoteliers, shack-owners, restaurant owners and tour operators "to share the responsibility for the clean-up". Beaches needed special dustbins for plastic bottles as the many thousands of tourists, feeling the need for 'pure' drinking water, left huge numbers of bottles in their wake.

results: the 80-day drive had a 'significant impact' on the consciousness of people across Goa, and galvanised society in a manner that few other issues did. Recently, a new government law enforced a ban on thin plastic bags: in Goa, plastic bags less than 100 microns thick will no longer be handed out free by shopkeepers. Instead customers will be charged for them in the hope that they will either re-use them or use alternatives such as baskets.

next steps: a solution still needs to be found for the problem of the millions of plastic water bottles disposed by tourists.
contacts

Patricia Pinto, Convenor
Goa Environment Federation (GEF),
E-74, Campal, Panjim. Goa. 403001.
ph 223404 / 421638. Mobile: 9822167630.
fax (0832) 228538
wellplumb@satyam.net.in
 
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