THE GOVERNMENT has imposed ban on manufacturing, import, sale and use of non-degradable plastic bags and other plastic products in the limits of Islamabad, with an aim to ensuring a clean and healthy environment in the federal capital.
“The ban will be effective from April 1, 2013 stressing replacement of poisonous plastic bags with bio-degradable plastic bags which are environment-friendly and are not detrimental to human health,” says a notification issued by the government.
These plastics have extensive usage in packaging of food, beverages, cigarette, leather, textile, electrical/mechanical machinery and components etc. Now, it is also being used in agriculture as mulches and in forestry for saplings. If use of non-degradable plastic continues, it will wreak havoc because of poor waste collection in the country, experts opine.
According to a survey conducted by the Pak-EPA about 55 billion bags were being used annually with an annual growth rate of 15 per cent. The annual average consumption of plastic bags was estimated at 397 bags per person and if this trend continued, the consumption of plastic bag will reach to 112 billion by year 2015.
The available data reveals that at least 200,000 people are directly involved with the industry and 600,000 people are connected indirectly with this business. The report had considered different options to deal with the plastic bags issue, which included complete ban on plastic bags; or introduction of photo-degradable plastic bags; Hydro-soluble plastic bags; and ox-biodegradable bags.
“Plastic bags made with the Oxo-biodegradable technology is a viable solution because if these bags left in open air or water absorb oxygen, which gradually weakens the internal bonds of the plastic material thereby allowing biological degradation to take place. Finally the bag will vanish leaving behind humus (a non-toxic product),” said Minister for Climate Change Rana Farooq Saeed while talking to media here.
He noted that the oxo-biodegradable technology is simple and needs no alteration in machinery or in the manufacturing process. A small quantity of olefin-based additive is mixed with the raw material (granules) to develop biodegradable properties in plastic.
“PAK-EPA has approached local and multinational companies and users to promote oxo-biodegradable plastic bags, and the Lahore and Karachi Chamber of Commerce held workshops on biodegradable plastics to create awareness among entrepreneurs,” said the minister.
He argued that because of these efforts, a number of users like; Dawn Bread, KFC, McDonalds, Hyper Star, Sazgar, DHA, ICI Polyester, MENUE etc. have started using the Oxo-biodegradable plastic bags as part of their social responsibility,” he explained.
Advocates of the environment protection are of the strong view that the continued usage of plastic bags are a menace and end up in landfills. Not only that, a lot of resources are needed to produce, transport and (occasionally) recycle them, and the emissions resulting from these processes are even more dangerious. These bags disrupt ecosystems and also clog pipes and drains and that causes flooding.
It is to be mentioned here that in 2008 the Sindh government had banned the usage of plastic bags below 30-micron weight, however, the authorities failed.
The move would have long-term benefits, curbing the proliferation of waste plastic bags and enabling exporters to comply with the environment-friendly packaging demanded in the international market.
According to the government notification, the prohibition of non-degradable Plastic Products (Manufacture, Sale and Usage) Regulations 2013 – has outlawed disposable plastic products made wholly or substantially of polyethylene or polypropylene or polystyrene unless they are Oxo-biodegradable.