Beginning April 1, in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) polythene plastic bags are totally prohibited including use, production, sale and purchase.
Rana Muhammad Farooq Saeed Khan, Climate Change Minister made the announcement at a press conference that over the next few months, regular plastic bags will be discontinued in the federal capital. The bags are to be replaced with oxo biodegradable, environmentally friendly plastic bags. The wording for the regulation of the plastic bag ban was created by the Pakistan-Environmental Protection Agency. The Prohibition of Non degradable Plastic Bags, Regulation 2013 is instituted by the Ministry of Law and Justice.
It is not known for sure how long it takes plastic bags to naturally decompose, but according to scientific estimates it could be centuries. Their threat to the environment is obvious, not only do they take space in landfills but there are also damaging emissions from their production. There is also the danger to animals as they might eat them unintentionally. Oxo biodegradable bags by comparison only take three or four months to decompose naturally.
Oxo Biodegradable Plastic Bags
Some Pakistani companies are already using oxo biodegradable plastic in product packaging and others are already producing them voluntarily. Fortunately, oxo biodegradable plastic bags production does not call for major alternations to machinery or processes.
The process requires mixing a small amount of a petroleum-based compound — or olefin — with the polyethylene resins. The olefin initiates the biodegradation characteristics to the plastic, which is activated when the plastic is in contact with air. After that, bacteria can decompose the weak molecular structure of the plastic.
Eco Bags At No Major Cost
The eco-friendly alternative bags are not a major cost increase for retailers. Usually regular plastic bags are priced at Rs85-87 per kg and oxo biodegradable bags are approximately Rs92 per kg. With about 80 to 100 bags per kg, the extra cost is insignificant.
The per bag cost increase could be between Rs0.05 and Rs0.50 per plastic bag. The Pak-EPA has requested the government remove the 6% export duty on the olefin additive. The ban is an improvement for human health and the Pakistani government will support it at any cost.
With the plastic bag ban starting in Islamabad, the Pak-EPA will be looking to get approval at provincial level also.
The climate change ministry is looking for the support of the Plastic Bag Manufacturers Association of Pakistan and leading officials of the Karachi and Lahore chambers of commerce to support a national ban on the use and sale of regular plastic bags.
To raise awareness of the ban over the next two months in Islamabad, the Pak-EPA is starting a “Say NO to plastic bags” campaign. The campaign is about advising shop keepers to place only orders for biodegradable plastic bags instead of polythene bags.
The Pak-EPA has also been in contact with the Oxo Biodegradable Association of United Kingdom for training and technology assignment.
Officials stated that Pakistan’s export industry will also profit from this initiative. Many of their leather and textile exporters use plastic in packaging and many foreign countries strictly require environment friendly plastic. They feel that if Pakistan begins using oxo biodegradable plastic, it sends a good message to the rest of the world and will help their exporters.
About the author: Lee is a freelance writer and eco warrior. Follow him on Twitter @Ecolee