Plans are afoot to ban all eco-unfriendly plastic shopping bags in local markets, with focus on gradually reducing use of the 50 micron (μm) plastic shopping bags currently in use and altogether discontinuing their use in the near future.
To reduce use of plastic bags and manage plastic waste, Dr Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah al Omari, chairman of Environment Authority (EA), has issued an administrative decision – No 61/2021 – to form a team to support the transition to environmentally friendly bags.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Dr Mohammad Majid al Kasbi, director, Department of Chemical Materials at EA, said, “The team will be responsible for setting up a mechanism to prohibit the use of plastic shopping bags, and to avoid the challenges resulting from the excessive consumption of 50μm plastic shopping bags.”
The team will also evaluate the current situation of plastic waste management in the sultanate and come up with a clear vision for its management in an integrated and sustainable way. This effort will be in coordination and cooperation with the relevant authorities, directing factories and suppliers to alternatives approved by the EA such as cloth, paper and cotton, and supporting suppliers for uptake of environmentally friendly bags and manufacturers to open production lines for alternative bags.
According to Kasbi the team will also support the implementation of the decision in preparation of the ban on all eco-unfriendly plastic shopping bags in local markets, and submit monthly reports to the chairman of the Environment Authority explaining the completed work and recommendations.
“The authority seeks to reduce the use of 50μm plastic shopping bags by 50 per cent and finally 100 per cent, but factories can continue to export abroad. Some Omani factories have started producing environmentally friendly bags only. We are working with factories on a comprehensive plan to prevent plastic bags permanently without impacting their business,” said Kasbi.
He informed that EA has cooperated with the relevant authorities, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources, Consumer Protection Authority, and Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion to raise awareness on the use of environmentally friendly bags.
“We have distributed more than 30,000 eco-friendly bags for free starting January 1. We targeted school and university students and citizens’ homes in several governorates across the sultanate. This was done in cooperation with the governor’s office in the wilayats. In next stage, we will distribute 30,000 more bags,” Kasbi said.