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55bn plastic bags used in Pakistan each year, Senate told

By Mumtaz Alvi
January 28, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Climate Change Senator Mushahidullah Khan Saturday said in the Senate that as many as 55 billion plastic shopping bags are being used each year in Pakistan with their use increasing by 15 percent per annum.

He informed the House during the question hour that there were about 8,021 production units of these bags with an average production capacity of 250-500 kilograms per day and majority of them was cottage industry.

While quoting from the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency’s national survey, the minister said that approximately, 160,000 persons were directly and 600,000 were indirectly dependent on this industry.

He was responding to a question by the PML-N Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, who asked, was there any proposal under consideration to conduct a study to identify negative impacts of massive use of plastic in any shape on environment in general and on human beings in particular and to find out or propose remedial measures in this context.

The minister conceded that used plastic bags are notorious for choking sewer, open drainage system, spoiling sanitation and creating an overall unaesthetic view of environment.

“The practice of burning them on street sides at dumpsites produces dioxins and furans responsible for producing serious diseases. Plastic bags take much longer to degrade (not biodegrade) than paper bags. Under the best circumstances, high density polythene will take more than 20 years to degrade,” he explained.

He pointed out that manufacturers of plastic bags oppose the ban on plastic bags, arguing that employment of thousands of persons depends upon such cottage industries that manufacture polythene bags.

It had been analysed, he noted that banning of plastic bags across the board would not be a viable solution, as these bags have become a part of our daily life. It would be difficult to get such an order implemented due to non-cooperation of manufacturers and consumers.

“We have example of Balochistan, where an ordinance to ban all kind of plastic bags was promulgated but could not be implemented due to non-cooperation of manufacturers and consumers,” he noted.

However, the minister said that the environmental agency had examined that different countries had addressed the plastic bags issue, adopting diverse ways: complete ban on manufacturing and use of plastic bags; increasing price of bags by levying additional taxes or increasing cost, promoting use of paper and cotton bags, increasing thickness of bags and banning manufacturing of non-degradable plastic bags and introduction of degradable plastic bags.