ISLAMABAD, (28th Jan, 2018 ):Around 55 billion plastic shopping bags are being used each year in Pakistan as their usage is on rise at rate of 15 per cent per annum.
Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) had conducted a national survey which revealed that there are about 8,021 production units in the country with average production capacity of 250-500 kg per day and majority of them are cottage industry.
Approximately, 1,60,000 people are directly, and 600,000 people are indirectly dependent on this industry. When contacted official sources at Climate Change Division on Sunday highlighted negative impacts of indiscriminate use of plastic in any shape on environment in general and on human being in particular.
The sources said used plastic shoppers are notorious for choking sewer, open drainage system, spoiling sanitation and creating an overall unaesthetic view of environment. The practice of burning them on street sides at dumpsites produces dioxins and furans responsible for producing serious diseases.
Plastic bags take much longer to degrade (not biodegrade) than paper bags.
Under the best circumstances, high density polyethylene will take more than 20 years to degrade. The manufacturers of the plastic bags oppose the ban on plastic bags, arguing that employment of thousands of persons depends upon such cottage industries which manufacture polyethylene bags.
The ban will render many people jobless. The sources said Pak-EPA examined that different countries have addressed the plastic bags issues in following ways: These include complete ban on manufacturing and use of plastic bags, increasing price of bags by levy of additional taxes or cost, promoting use of paper and cotton bags, increasing thickness of the bags, and banning manufacturing of non-degradable plastic bags and introduction of degradable plastic bags.
It has been analyzed that banning of plastic bags across the board would not be a viable solution as these bags have become a part of our daily life. It would be difficult to get such an order implemented.
The sources said, “We have example of Balochistan province, where an ordinance to ban all kind of plastic bags was promulgated but could not be implemented due to non-cooperation of manufacturers and consumers.
” The solution to control plastic bags issue could be tackled through combination of the measures which include: banning manufacturing, selling and usage of non-degradable plastic bags in the country, increasing thickness of degradable bags to 30 microns, promoting use of cotton bags through awareness campaign and rationalizing tariff in favor of manufacturing of paper bags and concession on import of automatic paper bag machinery.
The sources said degradable plastic bags are classified into categories including Oxy-degradable, Photo-degradable and Bio-degradable. Out of all above three types, oxy-degradable is the best option as these bags gets disintegrated in presence of oxygen, whether through atmosphere or from water. In other words, these bags get destroyed in presence of air and water.