Bin the bags: 40mn plastic bags per year in our malls

Energy Sunday 01/July/2018 21:49 PM
By: Times News Service
Bin the bags: 40mn plastic bags per year in our malls

Muscat: Commercial centres and malls in Oman are ploughing through 40 million plastic bags a year, according to Oman’s environment watchdog.
“There are indications that the number of plastic bags used in major malls alone has reached extreme proportions,” said Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al Ghailani, Director of Community Affairs and Environmental Awareness at the Environment Society of Oman (ESO).
“There were up to 40 million bags used in one commercial centre per year.”
Consumption rate
“That number does not include the use of plastic bags in other sectors such as restaurants and other outlets in the retail sector, which means the consumption rate of plastic bags in the Sultanate sometimes exceeds the world’s average consumption,” he added.
The decision by the ESO to introduce the new plastic bags comes as the government decides on the transition towards a complete ban on plastic bags in supermarkets.
“We have completed the regulation on the use of plastic bags to limit their hazards on the environment and human health, as well as the sustainability of the ecological system and biodiversity,” Mohammed bin Salim Al Toobi, Oman’s Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs, told the Shura Council. “We are waiting for the technical regulations from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.”
The plastic bags currently used for shopping, food preservation, and household needs contain up to 20 of the world’s most dangerous substances.
“The danger of plastic bags is due to their harmful manufacturing materials, which include petroleum, as well as a number of other chemicals that are transferred to water, food, and the environment in general, and which take years to decompose and distort their general appearance,” explained Al Ghailani, who called for the use of eco-friendly bags available in many shopping centres, which can be reused and have no effect on the environment, as well as minimising the use of bags.
Normal plastic bags need some 10 to 15 years to decompose, while plastic may take some 400 to 500 years to do the same.
“It is noticeable that people use a lot of bags when shopping; purchases that need five bags are distributed among 15 or 20 bags, and many people use the bags only once and then throw them away,” Al Ghailani explained. “Eco-friendly bags are available in various commercial markets and their cost is not high but many people are interested in buying them. We hope they will be used by more people in the near future.”
Eco-friendly bags
“People can keep the eco-friendly bags in their cars for use when shopping,” he added. “If plastic bags are to be used, they should be used in a limited manner. Many countries in the world have banned the use of plastic bags and imposed additional taxes on the purchase of plastic bags. We hope to implement this in the Sultanate to reduce the pollution caused by plastic waste, so people should start to reduce the number of bags used while shopping.”
In the wake of his comments, Al Ghailani pointed out that the Environment Society of Oman was printing a large number of eco-friendly bags and distributing them across important shopping centres. The Environment Society of Oman also frequently carries out awareness programmes in schools, women’s associations, and for the general public about the effects of plastic bags on people and the environment. The group also organises training programmes and workshops that teach people how to recycle plastic.
The government, which has also decided to deal with the dangers caused by plastic bags, has formed a national team to study the effects of the bags on the environment.
Relevant bodies such as the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Environment Society of Oman, and Be’ah have been tasked with conducting field studies and studying the effects of plastic bags on the environment and finding appropriate solutions to reduce the use of these bags, in addition to a study of Gulf standards for the preparation of standard Omani regulations.
“The issuance of a regulation on the use of plastic bags should reduce risks to the environment, human health, and the sustainability of ecosystems and biodiversity, and produce a commitment from commercial centres to use bio-degradable bags,” said Al Ghailani.
“Ecosystems and biodiversity are so important, and we do not know how long we have to wait for this regulation despite the risks these bags cause to human health, organisms, and biodiversity in the country.”
People around the world use 60,000 plastic bags every 6 seconds, two million plastic bottles every five minutes, and 100,000 food packets every 30 seconds. Al Ghailani said annual plastic production ranged between 500,000 and one billion tonnes annually. According to statistics from Be’ah, plastic waste makes up 21 per cent of the total waste in the Sultanate. The company implemented 136 awareness campaigns from November 2017 to June 2018 to raise awareness about the best ways communities can deal with waste to preserve the environment.
“The marine environment is the most affected by plastic waste,” Al Ghailani said. “Statistics show that 70 per cent of marine pollution is due to human activity on shores and the residues people leave on beaches.”
“Some 100 000 mammals around the world die from plastic waste, and the largest number of them are at sea, because many marine animals, including turtles, feed on jellyfish,” he added. “These animals form close to plastic bags, so many fish eat the bags, leading to their death.”