Plastic bags set to go off supermarkets

MUSCAT, July 31 – Carrying essentials in plastic bags from supermarkets will soon be a thing of the past in the Sultanate. “It’s just a matter of time. Regulations to ban the use of plastic bags have already been drafted. What is now left is an approval for the implementation,” said a senior official at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs. According to the official, an announcement in this regard will be made after receipt of the final
approval from the committee that looks into the specifications and standards at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. “The plastic bags in Oman are proposed to be replaced by biodegradable or reusable alternatives,” he said.

He said the ministry had conducted a study of the market and the types of bags before drafting the regulations. In a recent social media survey conducted by the ministry, a majority of the respondents favoured a ban on the use of plastic bags. The survey, conducted on three consecutive days, interviewed 4,514 respondents. While 89 per cent voted in favour of the ban, 11 per cent voted against it. Addressing the Majlis Ash’shura recently, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs Mohammed bin Salim al Toobi said the government is committed to limiting the hazardous impact on environment and human health from the use of plastics. Many hotels in the Sultanate, as part of the green initiatives, have already agreed to do away with plastic straws, cutlery, plates, plastic toothpicks or bags. Some of them have even implemented a property-wide ban on plastic straws in an effort to protect the environment.

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) in May had announced it was banning single-use plastics across its business as part of a wide-ranging campaign on environmental sustainability. Every year, one trillion plastic bags — single use — are used, equating to two million per minute. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one person uses a plastic bag on average for only 12 minutes. “On average we only recycle one plastic bag in every 200 we use. Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year,” the agency reveals in a report. According to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey, plastic bags have gone “from being rare in the late 80s and early 90s to being almost everywhere.”

Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal clean-ups, says Centre for Marine Conservation. According to a report by EcoMena, the harmful chemicals that leech into the soil from the plastics dumped in landfills, can contaminate the soil and ground water entering our food chain. This has been found to lead to hypospadias, which is the abnormality of the genitals. “Almost 19 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the oceans each year. Considering the plastic debris found in the ocean today, it is anticipated that the plastics in the ocean will outnumber the fish by 2050,” the report pointed out.

SAMUEL KUTTY