Since the dawn of January 1, 2021, your trip to a supermarket in Oman has ended with two options either to take a bag with you or buy one at a small cost. This followed a decision by the Environment Authority banning single-use plastic shopping bags in the country.
The ban applied to thin plastic bags from restaurants, supermarkets and retailers whether they are large and small. The order stipulates that violators face a fine starting from a minimum of RO 100 to a maximum of RO 2,000, which will double if the violation is repeated.
The law in Oman forbids all the outlets from providing single-use plastic bags to customers, even if they sold it for a fee. Instead, stores can sell thicker-skinned bags.
Even as supermarkets and other outlets have adopted all kinds of seemingly sustainable swaps from paper to reusable alternatives, some of these options might not be eco-friendly after all.
Although the bags being used by many outlets are different from the ones we were used to seeing, they still look like plastic bags and continue to be an option at some stores. The single-use plastics, in a different form, remain a ubiquitous part of retail!
Banning single-use plastic bags, according to the authorities, was the first step towards tackling the plastic pollution, which has been damaging the environment. The ban has already played a crucial role in drawing attention to the harms of plastic and has pushed people to examine their plastic consumption habits.
True, the decision has forced many of us to make minor lifestyle adjustments to contribute to a better environment by limiting the use of plastic bags. With time, I believe many, including me, have become better eco-friendly citizens!
Often described as the world’s number one consumer product, as well as the most ubiquitous, single-use plastic bags are among the world’s most-banned product. The United Nations has so far counted 130 nations that have banned these bags as they pose “a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike.”
Every year, about eight million metric tonnes of it ends up in the ocean, where it can harm fish and wildlife, and, once it enters the food chain, threaten human health. Plastic can enter the food chain in many ways; for example, plastic is broken down and ends up in the ocean and marine animals we eat.
Yet the ban on single-use bags is expected to spread around the globe, its effectiveness remains an unanswered question. Bag bans have spawned bans of other plastic products, including plates, cups, cutlery, straws and bottles, as part of an expanding effort to reduce single-use plastics, which make up about 40 per cent of the plastics manufactured worldwide.
But whether bans can significantly reduce plastic waste remains to be seen, especially when considering that plastic production is forecast to double by 2040, and may account for 20 per cent of the world’s oil production by 2050.
By enacting plastic bag bans at the governmental level, it is not left up to average citizens to shoulder the weight of environmental damage from plastic pollution. Producers of plastic products would need to adjust their production to replace hard to recycle soft-film plastic and start producing sturdier reusable bag alternatives or at least not producing bags using virgin plastic.
As plastic production has doubled in recent years and is expected to continue to increase, the world urgently needs to reduce its use of single-use plastic bags. Very few countries regulate the entire lifecycle of plastic bags from its manufacturing and production, use and distribution, to trade and disposal.
What the governments must remember while banning single-use plastic bags is in terms of reducing it as a source, otherwise it is not going to change the world! And the fact is that the new types of plastic packaging continue to pile up in our homes and later filling the trash bins!