Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam has said that the government is working to adopt the Kenyan model of manufacturing biodegradable shopping bags from plants.
He made these remarks before the Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change. He told the committee that the number of plastic bags in Pakistan has risen from 10 million in 1999 to 55 billion in 2018. PM’s adviser added that wide-prevailing use of plastics bags is a grave concern, as these bags are polluting rivers and harming human health.
Aslam told the senate committee that Indus River is the world’s second-most polluted river because of plastic bags. The plastic is contaminating the food and water. The per capita plastic consumption in Pakistan is equivalent to the size of a credit card.
The Senate body was told that the use of polythene bags will be banned in Islamabad from August 14 and the provinces will be told of the policy so they can chalk out the legislation.
Bags used for potato chips are also a pollutant. He said that the government has directed the manufacturers of these bags to collect and recycle them, or they will also be banned in the capital.
While answering a question, Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul said that the ban on plastic bags is only for Islamabad, as issues pertaining to the environment have been transferred to the provinces under the 18th Amendment. They will be informed of the federal policy and they will make the legislation of their own.
Effect on Industry
The state minister was also questioned about the policy’s effect on the manufacturers, who claim 8000 units will be closed and around a million workers will be unemployed as a result of the policy.
She told that the ban will not close the industry neither will it leave people unemployed, as the ban is going to create a new industry. “An alternate source will be developed soon. Paper, cloth and jute bags will increase employment for women in the home-based industry,” said the minister.
The representatives of the plastic bag manufacturers were also present in the meeting. They told the senators that increasing the thickness of polythene bags from 15 to 50 microns will end pollution and reduce their use. The cost price of 10-12 microns thick bags is 25 paisas while 50 micron thick bags cost Rs. 3.5 per piece, thus increasing the thickness will ultimately reduce the use.
They also argued that making paper bags will require cutting down more trees. However, climate ministry officials challenged the figures of the industry and workers.
The ministry was directed to form a technical committee for reaching a solution to the industry shut-down and the unemployment resulting from the ban on plastic bags.