We are back to plastic culture

Ten years on since the nation-wide Anti-Plastic campaign, with the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) being the forerunner, was launched with the blessings of various ministries and public-private entities and the media went gaga over the abuse of natural resources being affected beyond any measure, we are conveniently back to the old plastic culture with no regrets whatsoever.
In 2008 when the Omani population was below 4 million, and when the campaign took off, Muscat Municipality numbers showed that around 6 million non-biodegradable bags were used in Oman on a monthly basis, majority through the leading hypermarkets and small retail players. After almost 9 years and half, it is estimated that not less than 10 millions of plastic bags are pumped into the society on a monthly basis most of them inadvertently ending up in the seas.
All the efforts of the ESO saw fruition in the initial months. A new culture was slowly being infused into the society and ultimately, the government of Oman established a national committee to reduce the use of plastic bags.
Studies around the world show that an estimated 300 million plastic bags end up in the Atlantic Ocean alone. These bags are very dangerous for sea life, especially those of the mammal variety. Accordingly, deaths of sea creatures from plastic bags are increasing every year.
Also, these bags are a great threat to the natural progression of wildlife. Because the break down rate is so slow the chances that the bag will harmlessly go away are extremely slim. Throughout the world plastic bags are responsible for suffocation deaths of woodland animals as well as inhibiting soil nutrients.
While convenient in the short-term for shopping, plastic bags are often used only once before being thrown away, after which they can take up to a thousand years to break down. Plastic bags usually end up in landfill sites. Not only do they spoil our landscape and oceans, but they can also take up to 1000 years to break down. Plastic bags do not biodegrade, they photo degrade (break down into smaller and smaller bits) contaminating soil and oceans and entering the food chain when ingested by animals.
Oman’s precious sea wealth, unmatchable environment, and beaches and parks are polluted with plastic bags littered by people who often act irresponsibly. The only relief is the cleaning up campaigns called for by various NGO’s and other private companies.
“Most people do not realise the impact plastic bags are having on our marine life, birds and land mammals, and the fact that many are at the verge of extinction as a result of our carelessness and frivolity.” Her Highness Sayyida Tania bint Shabib al Said, President of ESO said.
The campaign that became an instant hit with major corporate giants taking part in the national drive lasted for many following months. It is a part of the 6-months campaign to reduce use of plastic bags in Oman “No to Plastic bags for Oman” that was launched a month ago. The 6 month nationwide campaign will include awareness raising, surveys, training of retail staff, competitions and sports activities.
Many hypermarkets reduced the category of degradability while others offered jute bags at the check-out counters for a nominal pay. However, the momentum died an early death owing to the lack of attention to the noble cause.
Today, the same plastic culture is back with a bang causing serious threat to our food chain.
“Until the government takes a stand against plastic bags, manufacture, distribution and use, we as a population can start by saying no to plastic bags and use reusable bags instead. We must also refuse any disposable plastic and replace them with reusable products. If we as a population take a stand, it will be easier for the government to enforce regulations”. Tania adds.
With more the 500 billion and possibly as many as a trillion plastic bags in circulation annually this can lead to a catastrophic littering problem. Not only is littering unattractive but it is also a very serious environmental hazard. It’s never too late to start all afresh again, rather, better late than never.

Kabeer Yousuf