Fibre and cotton bags will experience a second coming at Bhatbhateni Supermarket and Departmental Store for Tihar this year. The store will begin by supplying 1,200 attractive, fibre bags at Rs 15 apiece, and 300 cotton bags at Rs 30 apiece, and hopes to go through this stock during the Tihar shopping season. The cotton bags carry the slogan "Use Cloth Shopping Bags and Save the Environment!" and the fibre bags look good for this season, coming in a shapely, bright orange design.
The campaign received a lukewarm response last year, compelling the store to revert back to plastic bags. But store managers are optimistic about favourable consumer behaviour for the festive season. "A lot of customers asked for fibre bags during the Dasain shopping week – they seemed not to mind spending an extra Rs 15, as they were already spending a lot for Dasain," says Pushkar Rai, HR manager at Bhatbhateni. The store has placed a Rs 1 charge on polythene bags as an incentive for customers to use eco-friendly bags instead.
Funds collected will go towards improving the Thirvam Road, which runs from Bhagwati Bahal to the police headquarters in Maharajganj. The Thirvum Sadak Sudhar Samiti (Thirvum Road Improvement Committee) has been given the responsibility for repairs while Bhatbhateni itself intends to plant trees along it. Building a green parking lot in front of the Nepal Rastra Bank in Baluwatar is on the agenda as well, as long as enough revenue is generated by the campaign.
Plastic bags may be handy garbage bags, or great for endless packaging and storing of food items, but they are an unmitigated disaster otherwise. It's enough to cast your eye over urban streets (and rural trails) across the country to realise that once discarded, plastic bags are literally forever. They choke drains, host mosquito larvae and may even leach out chemicals such as cadmium and other neurotoxins into food products stored in them.
Fibre and cotton bags cause no such problems. Fibre bags are weaker than those made of cloth, but are waterproof and a safer alternative to polythene. Cotton bags are worth their price, for they last longer. An occasional wash and the bag is as good as new (and bacteria-free), and the next time you head to the supermarket you just take it along with you. At Rs 15 and Rs 30 respectively, the fibre and cotton bags selling at Bhatbhateni are a steal.