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Plastic-free kanyakumari

say no to plastic bag

When was the last time you carried bag from home when going out for shopping? When was the last time you stuffed your purchases in a cloth bag instead of the plastic one? When I was kid, the shop keepers use to wrap grocery items in paper and we used to carry cloth bags (bright yellow bags in particular) when we go shopping. Things have changed drastically in short span of years. Now we are so used to plastic bags in life that for even small petty purchases, the shop keepers provide us the plastic bags. It has become integral part of our life.

Have you ever thought about how many plastic bags are in usage everyday? Every year, around 500 billion (500,000,000,000) plastic bags are used worldwide. Imagine the quantity of bags that would be in use in a growing economy with a billion populations.

Why do we need to say NO to plastics?

  • Plastic is forever and they litter the landscape.
  • Plastic is poisoning our food chain
  • Plastic affects human health
  • Plastic bags kill animals

Inspite of this hard facts plastic usage has become almost indispensable in our daily life and one cannot even imagine a life without them. But then for the larger interest of Planet Earth strong action has to be taken. Our previous generations have managed their life without plastic bags, so can we all that needs is an effective discipline on the part of the Government as well as the public to curb this practice.

Couple of weeks back when I visited Kanya kumari, I was pleasantly shocked. The plastics carry bags and cups are banned in the entire District, consisting of 1057 rural habitations, 56 Town Panchayats and 4 Municipalities. The ban has been welcomed by the public and it is hugely successful. How did this happen when this idea failed in the neighboring district of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala?

Yes, the public do have the practical difficulties. Shift from plastic bags to non-plastic mode is not that easy but the people of the district have got used to the change in life style. Yes, it is a change in life style. One has to carry cloth bags when going out to make small purchases, you need to carry utensils when you plan take-away food parcels. Inspite of these small inconveniences the no-plastic momentum has sustained and well received by public. The credit for the Plastic-free Kanyakumari goes to Rajendra Ratnoo, the District collector who started the campaign and makes sure it is effectively implemented through three prong strategy.

This is how Rajendra Ratnoo and his administration made the change happen. In his own words:

What made us to succeed is that we did almost a six months long campaign and this campaign had some specific strategies, such as

1. Campaign had three components- Awareness generation, Training for behavioral Change of all stakeholders and Enforcement from a preannounced date i.e. 1st April

2. Focus in the trainings beyond knowledge i.e. on change in attitude and behaviour

3. Leading by example before preaching i.e. before launching the campaign in Public Domain, First Collector and his family stopped using plastics, then entire Collector Office Staff and District Level Officers said NO to it, then we targeted the Leaders and opinion makers, including Honourable Minister for Tourism, MLAs, Municipal and Town Pt Chairpersons and gradually we went down upto ward members, SHG leaders, Traders, and sanitary workers!

4. Multiple Channels of Communication, including vernicular media, Schools, Colleges, FM Radio, SMS,Voice calls from District Collector to all citizens, through religious leaders i.e. both mass media, and interpersonal communication strategies were used!
The results of our team work are very encouraging and we are following and monitoring the Enforcement!Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board provided good support in the campaign.

Have we not heard for umpteen times the phrases “charity begins at home”, “be the change”, well here is an administration and the administrator who lead by example and then implemented the change very effectively. The administration and the public of Kanyakumari deserve a big round of claps and cheers.

During my stay I did find a couple of small restaurants packing the sambars and chutneys in plastic bags. When I found that the there is an official Facebook page by name Plastic-free Kanyakumari, I joined and pointed it out. Immediately next day, I came to know that the shops were raided and action taken. Can you believe it?

Visit Plastic-free Kanyakumari face book page :

Now the district administration has embarked on a new initiative “solid waste management and zero waste generation” Good luck KK ! Hope we learn a lesson or two from this tiny district.

0 15 July, 2010 India Matters July 15, 2010

About the author

He is the lead man of GingerChai and plays the multi role of chief author, editor, business development and also of a chaiwala! (Tea maker!) He is the master brewer at Ginger Chai.

View all articles by Lakshmi Rajan


  1. Usha

    I carry cloth bags when going to the supermarket. They don’t give us plastic bags here (china).

    Kanyakumari has done a great job indeed. I once learnt sea turtles (and probably other sea creatures) choke on these things. 🙁 🙁

  2. Mani padma

    At last the wait ended. And it was worth it. Kudos to The DC. We need more like him. And that was a good piece of work Rajan- both the complaint and the write up. 🙂

  3. Sanchit Goyal

    Well I dont know whether other people in India know or not but Plastic bags has been banned in Chandigarh for quite sometime now. And the ban is pretty much effective barring rare stray incidents.

    But as far as I know there is no ban on plasic cups. Also what seems to be good about Kanyakumari is the official FB page which would make it easier for normal citizens to complaint. AFAIK no such service exist in chd. 🙁

  4. Sir Pumpkin Longshanks

    Amazing! So you also managed to hinder the daily livelihood of the restaurants because they used plastic bags! Excellent!

    1. Mani

      Oh! Sir Pumpkin – sometimes hard decisions need to be taken for the greater , common good. Moreover it would have cost nothing to the shopkeeper to refrain using plastic bags.Isn’t it?

      1. Sir Pumpkin Lonshanks

        Does anyone realize that it’s not abolishing plastic bags that should be pursued but improving their method of disposal?

        Negative reinforcement for the use of plastic bags will do nothing but cause ire. Recycling is the option. Garbage stratification is the answer.

        1. Mani

          I agree with you absolutely , but this can be used as an interim measure till such a method is implemented.Right? And yeah I thumbed up your comment . 😛

          1. Sir Pumpkin Lonshanks

            You don’t have to thumb up my comment! I respect the point of view of the author but at the same time, I have one too.

            Interim measures, unfortunately, in a country such as ours riddled with bureaucracy always fail to metamorphose into something more concreted.

            So unless we have a “proper disposal or bust” kind of attitude, I see this as a failure.

        2. Post author
          Lakshmi Rajan

          Ofcourse it is not just about abolishing plastic bags , if you read the last part of the article I had mentioned the current initiative the administration are working on implementation of “solid waste management and zero waste generation” and they have fixed 2010 for 100% effective implementation of it and have started the awareness drive now.

  5. S.R.Ayyangar

    Its really fantastic if the instructions are followed in letter & spirit.Kanya Kumari being a tourist spot, it may be herculean task to keep at bay the ‘littering’ people :disdain:

  6. Pramathésh Borkotoky

    There are quite a few number of towns and cities in South where I have seen the use the cloth bags instead of polythene. Kanyakumari and Vellore are among them. It is really inspiring to have such initiatives taken by the Govt. and supported by the public. I know places where polythene was banned but without any support from public, the ban was removed. Kudos to everyone.

  7. Kanyakumarikaran

    Plastic free Kanyakumari is a joke. It is bureaucratic flimflam to distract public’s attention from the real problems. The waste management in Kanyakumari district despite the ban is appalling. There is garbage in the streets and in most places the sewers are open and uncovered.

    There was no debate and the public have not been taken into confidence during the implementation of the ban. It would have been better if there was a educational program in place and the people were encouraged voluntarily to shun plastics. Outright ban on materials is dictatorial and has no place in a democracy. What next ban on automobiles and fossil fuels in Kanyakumari district?

    Nearly all processed foods and products are wrapped in plastic bags. A person buying 5 items in a store walks out with 5 plastic covers wrapped in a paper cover (or bag). It is a total assault on a person’s intelligence when the Kanyakumari bureaucrats say they see marked difference in plastic waste generated due to their plastic bag ban. How can there be a marked difference when even something as basic as potato chips packet comes wrapped in a plastic cover?

    All, flimflam at the expense of the poor public who fail to realize that India is a free democracy and people need to question these hypocrites boldly.

    1. Kanyakumarikaran

      When you collect tax from the public it is the relevant authorities’ responsibilty to see that there are waste management and disposal mechanisms in place. If that is not in pace the real issue is eradication of corruption and black money. The only people paying taxes honestly are the middle class people and the only people who are subject to idiotic bureacratic reguations is the midlle class.

      Zero waste generation is a joke unless you have the infrastructure to handle the waste.

      The basics of zero waste is Reduce, Re-use, Recycle. The public can do their part . But the tax-collectors need to do their part and RRR corruption.

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