SRO on plastic bags ban ready for cabinet approval

Published: June 14, 2019
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PHOTO: FILE

PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) has received the draft of SRO banning use and sale of polythene bags after vetting by the Ministry of Law.

MoCC will present the Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) before the federal cabinet in the next meeting to bring into force ban on plastic shopping bags in Islamabad from August 14.

The federal government wants to ban manufacture, purchase, sale and use of non-degradable polythene bags from August 14.

According to the SRO, after the given date, nobody would be allowed to manufacture, import, sell, retail, supply, store and distribute polythene bags.

However, the authority concerned would allow use polythene flat bags for industrial packing, primary industrial packing, municipal packing, hospitals’ waste and hazardous packing under certain regulations.

Companies would have to file an application in this regard and if allowed, the applicants will have to pay fee Rs10,000 rupees yearly for using flat bags.

According to SRO draft, violators of polythene bag ban will face heavy penalties. If a violation is made by a manufacturer, importer or wholesaler, penalty will be Rs100,000 for first time, Rs200,000 for second time and Rs500,000 for more than two violations.

Similarly, if the regulations was breached by a shopkeeper, hawker or a vendor, the fine would be Rs10,000 on the first violation, Rs 20,000 for the second time and Rs50,000 on more than two violations.

If any other person breached the plastic bag ban rules, he would have to pay Rs5,000 fine.

Sources said that after the climate change ministry and its subsidiaries would run an awareness campaign in the federal capital after draft approval from the federal cabinet in which the public would be informed about environmental hazards associated with plastic.

The officials of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that there were several small and micro enterprises engaged in plastic manufacturing across the country with no plan for environmental protection as well as NOC.

They added that the shopkeepers or traders give these bags for free with the grocery items as they are very cheap which, he termed, was a big cause of its large scale usage.

He suggested that the use of plastic bags could only be reduced if they were produced with an improved standard and sold at an increased price.

The officials expressed that the polythene bags or plastic shoppers cause severe threat to the environment, while being non-degradable they choke the sewerage lines. Further, the smoke emitted after burning of plastic bags was hazardous to health and environment.

Similarly, these shoppers lying in open spaces are eaten by animals which they could not digest and ultimately it becomes a cause of their death.

If anything warm is kept in these shoppers, the chemicals present in the plastic enter into the items and become a source of cancer.

The EPA officials told that there are plants for recycling of polyethylene bags in developed countries and now these countries have also introduced the “oxo-biodegradable” and “photo-biodegradable” system for recycling of polyethylene bags.

According to a survey report of EPA, as many as 55 billion plastic bags are used per year in Pakistan while the amount of plastic use is increasing by 15 per cent each year.

The report disclosed that more than 8,000 plastic manufacturing units are present in Pakistan with an average daily production capability of 250kg-500kg each.

Further, this industry provides direct employment to some 0.2 million people whereas it is the source of bread and butter of some 0.6 million people indirectly.

According to a latest EPA report, around five trillion plastic bags are consumed every year worldwide out of which some 13 million tonnes of plastic bags are dumped into the seas causing danger to marine life as around 0.1 million marine animals die annually due to swallowing plastic.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2019.

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