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March 13, 2019

Biodegradable plastic bags harmful: EPD


March 13, 2019

LAHORE: The Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Punjab, has declared biodegradable plastic bags harmful for environment and their use and production illegal.

The decision was taken in a meeting held under the chairmanship of Provincial Secretary, EPD, Dr Asad Rehman Gillani, who recently joined the department. Dr Gillani presented a recent departmental research, which showed that very harmful chemicals such as chromium, cobalt, nickel and, etc. are used in the production of Oxo-Biodegradable plastic bags. “During the process of degradation, these harmful chemicals seeped into the soil and underground water bodies resulting in increased soil and water pollution,” said Naseem-ur-Rehman, EPD Director.

He said decomposing of bags sounds environment-friendly but it requires a lot of energy and bags do not degrade in landfills and leave toxic leftovers. This is why European Union has also started discouraging the use and production of biodegradable plastic and bags, he maintained. A recent research of EU was also presented in the meeting which claimed that the European Plastics Recyclers Association had warned that the biodegradable plastic items have the potential to do more harm to the environment than good. “Oxo-degradable" plastics are plastics made to degrade in the presence of oxygen and sunlight with a chemical reaction with tiny amounts of metals like Cobalt, Nickel, Chromium, Iron and etc, Naseem said, adding these bags are also not suitable for recycling with other plastics, reuse or composting. He revealed that recent studies showed that there are concerns over the impact the degraded fragments of plastic could have in natural world. Naseem said the meeting agreed to reject the proposal of legalising manufacturing and use of biodegradable bags in Punjab. He said a draft was prepared and will soon be sent to the Punjab Law Department for approval. Talking to The News, Naseem said Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC), many big retail/wholesale grocery stores and corporate entities are using biodegradable bags/plastics, which is illegal and the department is planning a massive crackdown on the use of these plastic items. He said people should start using paper bags to save the environment. Talking about other measures, he said the Punjab government is going to increase the weight of plastic bags after which it will become costly to be used for petty items. He said all suggestions have been submitted to the government for approval after which necessary legislation will be done.

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