Personal lifestyle changes, and not laws alone, can sustain fight against plastic waste

As Oman’s authorities weigh legislation and other measures to reduce plastic waste generated in the Sultanate, growing numbers of corporate and public sector organisations are pitching in as well with initiatives to support this cause, according to the Environmental Society of Oman (ESO).

On Sunday, Nama Group — the umbrella organisation of government-owned power and water related entities — pledged funding support for ESO’s ‘Green Innovation ECO-Thon’, an initiative to encourage young Omanis to tackle environmental challenges in the Sultanate.
While the ECO-Thon initiative is not limited solely to the campaign against plastic waste, many corporate organisations are incorporating the theme into their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme, according to ESO Board Member Dareen Mehdi Jaaffar (pictured).
“There are a lot of private sector companies that are doing great CSR initiatives in the campaign against plastic waste,” said Dareen. “Many companies are trying to influence their employees in making better decisions with regard to use of plastics. Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), for example, has banned the use of single-use plastics at its headquarters. These are small steps that I can totally see broadening into becoming a culture.”
ESO’s pioneering ‘Say No To Plastics’ campaign, launched over a decade ago, continues to inspire various educational, social and corporate organisations in the Sultanate into taking steps to reduce their consumption of plastics. The NGO is also preparing to shortly launch a new drive encompassing not only plastics, but all kinds of waste, according to Dareen.
In recent weeks and months, authorities in the Sultanate, most notably the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), have announced tentative moves to enact laws designed to encourage a reduction in the consumption of plastics. It follows announcements by countries in the wider region to limit mainly ‘single use plastics’ in their national jurisdictions in the near future.
“We are also working with the government — and there have been recent meeting and discussions — related to banning plastics; however this is still in process; it’s going to be in the hands of the government to legislate and issue laws that regulate its use. So ESO is doing what it can,” said Dareen.
The well-known environmental campaigner noted however that any effective drive against plastic waste boils down to the lifestyle choices of individual consumers. “You can look at it from a top-down approach: people will stop using plastics when there is a law, but at the same time, it will be smoother if we introduce a kind of culture among youngsters, indeed across all generations — so that when the law comes, it’s implemented as part of a process. It should be that, as a citizen, I’m convinced that I should reduce the amount of waste I’m producing, while at the same time there are laws that regulate and support that kind of green environmentally friendly lifestyle.”
Asked for her thoughts on possible measures and penalties that could help strengthen the fight against plastic waste, the Board Member said ESO would support any government measures that are good for the environment.
“There are many examples of international campaigns around the world that support all sorts of green initiatives,” said Dareen. “A lot of countries have banned plastics entirely. We don’t see Omanis who love their country and who are environmentally conscious, not being capable of fulfilling their duties. It’s something embedded in our culture, in our religion, and it’s doable,” she added.