Plastic bags stay put; alternatives yet to be popular

The Environment Authority’s decision to ban single-use plastic bags which came into force from the new year will not only protect the environment but will also protect the health of the people of Oman.

Dr Asyah al Bualy

I naively anticipated the total disappearance of plastic bags and foresaw eco-friendly alternatives. But I was mistaken. After my shopping in a renowned supermarket, I was forced to purchase a white plastic bag instead of a green substitute. It was slightly thicker than the usual carry bag without the name of the store.
It had no messages to promote environmental awareness.
The supposedly eco-friendly bag was not made of fabric, cotton, paper or natural fiber.
Let me recall one of my friends’ shopping experiences. “I was once at a commercial store. To avoid inconvenience, I carried a bag from another store with me. Despite this, the cashier at the counter forced me to buy another bag simply because the bag I had carried a logo of a different store.”
I highlighted these experiences to invite the attention of authorities. It is important that the consumers are protected from such exploitation. Is it not enough that the home budget of citizens and expatriates are hit by the unexpected rise of essential goods and services?
The ban on single-use plastic to protect the environment is laudable. But the plastic is still there and merchants are charging a price for it which was earlier given free of cost. That is not helping to control pollution.
Some readers may wonder what the whole fuss is all about as it is a matter of few baisas.
Let me be clear. My worry is not about money but rather the attitude of shops. They are making money out of the ban on single-use plastic. It is also not fair to force people to buy the so-called eco-friendly bag, which in most cases is plastic.
For the purpose of protecting citizens and the residents from exploitation, I brought the issue to the notice of the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, and the Head of the Consumer Protection Authority. Keeping in mind the larger interests of the society, the authorities must act to stop the practice of shops to undermine the ban on single-use plastics.