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Switching to biodegradable plastic will help Oman’s environment
October 31, 2015 | 10:12 PM
by Tariq Al Haremi
A study conducted by the Environmental Society of Oman ESO in 2009 defines biodegradable bags as those that degrade to a point where micro-organisms can metabolise them. Photo-Files
 
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Muscat: With people littering, by discarding plastic bags on Oman’s beaches, parks and public places, some think there needs to be a change in approach to help the Sultanate’s environment.

In fact, some local stores have begun packing merchandise in biodegradable plastic bags that decompose from exposure to bacteria, as opposed to normal plastic which might take 500 to 1,000 years to degrade.

Local stores have begun programmes to help maintain the Sultanate’s environment. Lulu Hypermarket is among the many local shops in Oman using biodegradable plastic bags in their grocery stores.

“We have been using biodegradable bags for six years,because they are easily degradable. Some people take too many bags that are not eco-friendly,” said an official from Lulu.



“We have to save our environment, and with all the climate change that is going on, we have to realise that we, too, live in this environment,” he added.

Specialised products

Lulu Hypermarket, one of the largest retail market chains in the GCC, continues to promote protecting the environment through their messages to customers and sales of specialised products.

“We put up awareness messages on our cash counters for customers to learn about biodegradable bags, as well as about polystyrene plastic bags. We also have 300 baiza reusable bags for use,” the Lulu official explained.

A study conducted by the Environmental Society of Oman (ESO) in 2009 defines biodegradable bags as those that “degrade to a point where micro-organisms can metabolise them and thus have the potential to reduce litter and other negative environmental impacts.

“As far as their disposal is concerned, bio-plastics do not degrade in landfills effectively, since they are rarely exposed to the high temperatures necessary for their complete breakdown in typical composting situations and, when they do compost in anaerobic conditions (such as those found in many landfill sites), they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.”

Speaking to Times of Oman, Maria Sarraf Wilson, the research and conservation manager for the Environmental Society of Oman (ESO), paints a picture of the hazards plastic bags pose to marine life in the Sultanate.

“The most prominent danger of plastic waste is its persistency in the environment. Plastic bags are not, themselves, toxic, but they are indigestible to animals,” she said.

“They can form inert blockages in marine turtles, for instance, which typically confuse the bags for jellyfish. Also, plastic bags disintegrate into marine litter, which threatens the conservation of sea turtles, which become entangled and accidentally swallow them,” she added.

According to statistics from UNESCO, the UN environment programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 floating plastics. They also reported that almost 220m tons of plastic are produced globally every year. Statistics note that plastic also caused the deaths of roughly one million birds and 100,000 marine animals worldwide.

Taxation

Taxing the use of plastic bags could be a solution to reducing the distribution of plastic bags by stores.

“ESO discourages waste production, in general, and encourages the minimal use of plastic bags, regardless of their type.

“We encourage the government to seriously begin to consider taxation of plastic bags and encourage supermarkets to provide alternatives, such as reusable bags for their customers to use,” said Wilson.

Beneficial solution

An Omani advocate for not using plastic bags, Bader Al Lawati, known as one of the “Freezing Omanis” who travelled to Antarctica, explained his idea to the Times of Oman on how stores could reduce distributing plastic bags, while also increasing revenues.

“It’s mainly aimed towards petrol stations. If an employee reduces 10 per cent of plastic bag usage, all that savings goes back to the company and a percentage is given to that particular employee,” said Bader.

To contact the reporter mail to [email protected]

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