MUSCAT, Feb 11 – Not less than a million plastic carry bags are used on any given day by retail outlets, including hypermarkets and shopping malls and vegetable sellers in residential areas, posing a serious threat to environment. Footfalls in hypermarkets, the largest vegetable market, Mawaleh Fruits and Vegetables Market, and small grocery stores suggest more than a million are being used.
When the Sultanate embarked on a nation-wide anti-plastic campaign in 2008, with the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) being the forerunner, Oman’s population was below four million. Muscat Municipality statistics indicated six million non-biodegradable bags were used in the country every month, a majority through the leading hypermarkets and small retailers.
“We receive not less than 50,000 customers at all our branches across the country every day. We assume an average of 5-10 carry bags are given to every customer for taking goods home,” said the representative of a hypermarket chain.
All this plastic waste is going back to the environment either as trash collected by Muscat Municipality or as dangerous objects in the sea, according to experts.
The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting said every year more than eight tonnes of plastic go into the ocean, choking sea creatures, causing a crisis that threatens not only marine life, but everything that depends on seas.
“For centuries we have been dumping plastic and unwanted waste into the seas. The ocean can’t take any more. Plastic is one of the materials that poisons the earth and causes multiple hazards to the living beings both on the earth and the sea,” said Jonathan Warner, principal an international school in Sur.
Although plastic bags are convenient in the short-term for shipping, they are often used only once before being thrown away.
Plastic bags, which end up in landfill sites, not only spoil our landscape and oceans, but also contaminate soil and enter
the food chain when ingested by animals.
Reena Rahman, an environmentalist, urged strong action against plastic bags being circulated through retail chains.
“Replace plastic bags with cloth or jute bags made by Omani SMEs. It can create thousands, if not, hundreds of job opportunities, for the local workforce and support the economy.”
Many NGOs, and private and public entities have embarked upon beach cleaning campaigns.
The PDO, for instance, has initiated a beach clean-up drive with the aim of not only cleaning the seashores but also to awaken our eyes to the fact that beaches need to be kept clean.
“We need to keep Oman plastic-free,” says 10-year-old Nimuay, a British citizen
and a fifth grader, who initiates beach clean-up programmes along with her friends.