The first phase of the ban on single-use plastic bags in shopping centres in the sultanate came into effect on Friday.
Across communities, shoppers and shopping centres, most welcomed the decision to ban single-use plastic bags. But despite the advance notice, many – both shoppers and business establishments – were unprepared.
Among several available options to get by without single-use plastic bags, Bausher resident Manoj Kumar Behera suggests shoppers carry their reusable bags.
“The government has also introduced bio-degradable plastic bags to tackle the issue of indiscriminate use of single-use plastics.”
He added, “Initially, it may be a bit of a hassle but with time, carrying our own bags will become a habit. The long-term result of this action will be of immense value to the whole of mankind. While travelling to the US and Europe, I have seen the effects of the polythene ban and how their citizens obey it happily and appreciate the benefits that come with it. A little sacrifice today will set the right tone for the future and ensure Planet Earth is in a habitable state for the next generation.”
For expat Mark Dean, the shift away from single-use plastics bags is a welcome one. “Reusable bags are readily available and will be the option we use going forward. We have already started this. Shops and establishments now need to embrace this and offer the stock for patrons to be able to purchase these products.”
Doing the right thing to help the environment makes it ‘comfortable’, Dean noted. He looks forward to continued focus on this area with a ban on single-sip water cups and small water bottles next.
In an interview with Oman TV on Friday, Dr Abdullah bin Ali al Omari, chairman of Environment Authority, said the ban on the use of plastic shopping bags came after a thorough study involving the participation of all stakeholders. “Most of the waste in Oman comprises single-use plastic bags.”
Talking about the alternatives available to single-use plastics, Dr Mohammad Majid al Kasbi, director of Department of Chemical Materials in the Environment Authority, was recently quoted saying, “Eco-friendly bags are made of cloth, paper or other organic materials and can be re-used multiple times.”
David C, business head of Spar Oman Operations, said, “As a responsible retailer, Spar Oman has been proactive to live up to the cause. We have been selling 100 per cent cotton reusable shopping bags since July 2020 to prepare our shoppers for the new norms.”
According to David, Spar Oman recently introduced more options of reusable shopping bags at different price points to suit all pocket sizes.
David added that the ban calls for a major behavioural shift among shoppers but “it is all for a greater good. We are definite that our shoppers are aware of it and will cooperate”.
On occasion of the Arab Environment Day observed on October 14, in 2020 Spar Oman conducted a campaign distributing reusable shopping bags for free among shoppers on every purchase of RO10.
“We will continue to run such awareness campaigns in the future,” David said.
Despite the government’s announcement of the ban several months prior to the enforcement on January 1, many businesses and shoppers were caught unprepared.
Al Khuwayr resident Saada al Naamani was disappointment to find few or no alternatives.
“I started using reuseable bags months before the ban but was shocked to find out no replacements have been made available for outlets like hardware stores where paper bags can’t be used. Small foodstuff shops should have found where they can buy cheaper reuseable bags made of cassava starch and such bags which are available in South East Asia. Dealers should look for suppliers. Before something is implemented, options have to be available otherwise this affects outcome.”
A branch manager at one of the supermarkets in Ruwi said, “Not every customer is understanding. Some even don’t know about the ban. Besides, we are still confused as there is no clarification. The authorities did not mention what micron plastic bags are banned. Our suppliers are not sure what micron bags are allowed; that is why we did not procure re-usable bags in big quantity.”
The branch manager informed that as a result of not being prepared for the situation, his branch ran out of reusable bags which it was selling for 200bz a piece. “We will wait and see and try our best to provide affordable and strong reusable bags to our customers soon.”
(Text and photos by Syed Fasiuddin)