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October 1, 2020

EPD files petition in court on polythene bags

Lahore

October 1, 2020

LAHORE:The Environment Protection Department (EPD) has filed a civil miscellaneous petition in court on polythene matters after it failed to enforce the ban on all types of polythene bags ordered by the court.

In this regard, a meeting of technical experts committee was held on Wednesday in the Committee Room of EPD Punjab under the chairmanship of EPD Secretary Zahid Hussain.

The EPD secretary informed the committee that the committee has to submit, based on scientific research, a final report along with recommendations for finalising technical contours of plastic shopping bags to be regulated through the draft “Punjab Regulation of Plastic Shopping Bags Act.” Therefore, the committee has to submit report to assist the court. The director (ML&I) briefed the participants about the background and agenda of the meeting and recommendations of all members received in writing to the EPD Punjab. He explained that four members — WWF Pakistan, UET Lahore, CEES Department University of the Punjab, Lahore and PCSIR Laboratories Lahore — have submitted a combined report which, inter-alia, states “ASTM D6954-18 standard provides a scientific platform to assess the effectiveness and environmental/ecological impacts of using oxo-biodegradable additives in plastic bags. The ASTM standard mandated locally simulating conditions of temperature, humidity, types of crops, etc, and field compositing/landfill test these must be observed /performed. This standard demands that one unique finished plastic shopping bag sample should have to undergo abiotic oxidative degradation (Tier 1-20-70 C), then the biodegradation eco-toxicity analysis (Tier 3) should be carried out in series. The eco-toxicity results should be assessed and discussed at the relevant and competent forum. The head of Department of Chemistry, LUMS, has recommended use of oxo-biodegradable plastic bags complying ASTN-D6954 standard. Tests carried out in accordance with ASTM-D6954 by internationally accredited labs provided by the manufacturers of oxo-biodegradable additives should be acceptable. Polythene Bag Manufacturing Association has, inter-alia, submitted, “Due to absence of relevant laboratories in Pakistan, we recommend that if any internationally recognised ISO-17025 certified laboratory confirms compliance with ASTM D6954, it should be acceptable rather than going for new testing which takes more than 2 years.”

EPA Punjab Director Naseemur Rehman stated that Polythene Bag Manufacturing Association has conducted testing which may be shared with all members of the committee.

Dr Yasir Qayyum, assistant professor Polymer Department, UET Lahore, stated that the tests conducted by the Polythene Bag Manufacturing Association are not acceptable as these are not conducted on same sample. An oxo-biodegradable additives that has been qualified (separately for each individual oxo-biodegradable additive supplier) under ASTM-D6954 can be considered for utilization in oxo-biodegradable shopping bags if the report submitted by each individual oxo-biodegradable additives supplier satisfy the following points: a) One unique finished plastic shopping bag sample should have to undergo abiotic oxidative degradation (Tier1-20-70 oC), then the biodegradation in accordance with ASTM D5988, D5338 and D5526 (Tier 2) and then on the same sample eco-toxicity analysis (Tier 3) should be carried out in series. The eco-toxicity results should be assessed and discussed at the relevant and competent forums. b) If different starting plastic materials are examined for each tier of testing prescribed under ASTM D6954-18, then such submitted reports are unacceptable according to ASTM standard. c) All locally simulated conditions of temperature, humidity, soil, plants germination, crops, water, etc. mandated by ASTM D6954-18 must be observed. The field tests must be provided wherever these are necessary according to the standard. The report should comply ASTM D6954-18 reporting protocol. d) All FDA approvals for the oxo-biodegradable additive provided by the individual suppliers should be accompanied by all the relevant testing documents as per FDA guidelines. The confidentiality of these documents will be maintained if it is a matter of concern for the individual suppliers. e) Test Certificates for additive from any independent accredited third party laboratory must be carried out in accordance with the ASTM D6954 standards for Tier 1 Degradation, Tier 2 Biodegradation and Tier 3 Eco-Toxicity on the same sample and these tests should be conducted in accordance with local conditions as described in ASTM 6954-18. The EPD secretary said “How we can ensure ASTM-D6954 tests performed by suppliers/manufacturers are based on facts/acceptable if these are conducted by private suppliers/manufacturers?” Whether government should provide this facility if not available currently?

Dr Basit Yameen, associate professor, LUMS, stated that facilities are available to check whether suppliers/ manufacturers have added oxo-biodegradable additive in plastic shopping bags are not. Aleem Ahmed of Shopping Bag Association stated, “If a report of ASTM-D6954 standard is issued by international manufacturer/supplier and we purchase additives from those certified suppliers then there must be no objection on its use. However, problem may be raised at implementation stage.” The EPD secretary stated, “Due to our local conditions being different, we have to establish our local labs which may work in our local conditions.” The EPA director stated that Sindh and Azad Jammu & Kashmir have made legislation on use of oxo-biodegradable plastic bags. The federal government also made legislation on oxo-biodegradable plastic bags but after some time, the legislation was withdrawn. He stated that EPD drafted a legislation in which thickness from 15 micron to 50 micron was increased.

The EPD secretary concluded the meeting with the recommendation that the committee will submit a report in the court keeping in view the recommendations of all committee members. The court will decide the matter while no further meeting of the committee will be required anymore as sufficient written recommendations from all members have been received.