Customers without carry bags hold back plastic ban

Environment Headline

Most of the businesses use plastic as a mode of their convenience despite the ban by National Environment Commission (NEC) from April 1.

The ban would not allow the sale of plastic carry bags, doma wrappers, and ice cream pouches. It is a reinforcement of earlier ban, twenty years ago, and is applicable to business establishments and not on consumers, who reuse and carry their own plastic bags.

 “The customers do not bring their own carry bags and we have to provide meat in a plastic, otherwise they are not willing to buy”, said a 44 years old, meat vendor, Jevan Rai.

The government should totally ban plastic, as packaged products are also plastic, then customers would bring their own carry bags, he added.

He also said without plastic, the meat business would face difficulty as there is no substitutes. The other substitute, paper is banned by Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority and in cotton and jute bags, blood drips.

“If plastic is not allowed, what substitute we can use,” said 60 years old, meat vendor Sukh Man Subha said.

“We are in a dilemma, what to use and not to use for wrapping meats and we have to use plastic only,” a 35 years old, meat vendor, Bik Ram Gurung said.

In addition, he said the meat shop would not be able to pay fine as it would lose their business money.

“I have no idea how the government banned the plastic and we are not aware of the alternative to use,” said a 37 years old meat vendor, Shom Maya Rai.

She suggested the plastic could be collected in identified dumping site and treated with scientific methods. “I think we can control plastic but ban would be difficult,” Shom Maya Rai said.

“A month ago, we have requested to NEC to use plastic in meat shops a month ago but have not received a reply,” said a 43 years old meat Tshogpa, Ashal Man Mongar.

“Most of the customers are office goers, they come without a carry bags and when asked to get one, they get angry and hilariously respond how they can go to office with a carry bags,” said a 37 years old, vegetable vendor, Sonam.

He said about 3 percent of the customers bring their own carry bags and uses about one and half kilogram of plastics as carry bags a day.

He also urged to give awareness to the consumers and sellers equally as most of the consumers are office goers.

There is ban for only carry bags and not for those plastics used in packaging, said a 46 years old vegetable vendor, Pema Wangmo.

 “Government should draw clear lines on the use of plastics as both carry bags and packaging bags are both plastics,” said a 54 years old customer.

Chief of Waste Management Division, NEC, Thinley Dorji said the ban was reinforcement of 1999 and the authority could not revise the penalty provisions as well as on banned products.

“The authority is studying and gathering information on the pros and cons, does and don’ts and vulnerable of plastics, and change in the tactics,” he added. 

In addition, he said there were some problems with the authority monitoring the plastic ban and authority wants to go slow.

“The ban is on, and if authority sees business establishments using plastic carry bags, will impose fine but monitoring would start after few months,” Thinley Dorji said.

He also said that plastic is just a mode of convenience as 50 to 100 years back, there was no plastic and people were surviving without plastics. 

Regarding the plastics packaged products, he said those products are buyable and economically viable and do not have absolute substitutes whereas for the carry bags, it is only absolute needs.

“If you carry your own carry bags, it would reduce frequency of plastics carrying number of times,” said Thinley Dorji.

The plastics are allowed for the local produce from cereals and diary produce. He said as it helps for the income generation of the low-income farmers, it is not banned.

Additionally, he said the biodegradable plastics do not biodegrade and is equally bad for the environment.

“It would be little uncomfortable not to use plastic carry bags but we should not compromise the environment,” said Thinley Dorji.

The authority looks forward for the health and wellbeing of the people and environment that could have impact for now and for generations, he added. There are 56 meat shops in the Thimphu Thromde and hundreds of vegetable vendors in Thimphu Thromde.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu

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