Despite a ban on the manufacture, import, and sale of non-biodegradable plastic bags, their usage is on a rise in Pakistan.
A survey report of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) reveals that as many as 55 billion plastic bags are used annually. Moreover, their usage is increasing every year by 15 percent.
The report further stated that there are over eight thousand plastic bag manufacturing units in Pakistan. The average daily production capability of these units ranges between 250kg and 500 kg.
The industry in question has been generating direct employment opportunities for 0.2 million people while indirect jobs are reaching 0.6 million people.
The latest report by EPD states that the worldwide consumption of these bags amount to five trillion out of which around thirteen million tons of plastic bags go to the sea, impacting the marine life. Every year, around 0.1 million marine animals lose their lives by swallowing plastic.
In Pakistan, the EPD has served notices to all traders in Islamabad to implement a ban on the usage of plastic bags. The department also published advertisements in newspapers to spread awareness regarding the hazards of plastic.
However, all these measures did not bear fruit, as the ban has not had any effect.
Earlier, Sindh government had imposed a ban on manufacturing, sale, purchase, and use of polythene bags in 1994. Punjab did the same in 1995 while Balochistan levied a complete ban on polythene bags in 2001. The Khyber Pakhtunwa administration has also banned them.
As for the federal government, it prohibited the manufacturing, sale, and purchase of the plastic shopping bags in Islamabad in 2013.
Regardless of these bans, several plastic manufacturing industries have been operating without any consideration for environmental protection and have not obtained any Non-Objection Certificates (NOC) for that matter.