Muscat – Environment Authority (EA), in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion, is considering a ban on the use of all kinds of plastic shopping bags. A decision in this regard is expected soon, according to Dr Mohammad Majid al Kasbi, director, Department of Chemical Materials at EA.
EA had banned the use of single-use plastic bags in the sultanate starting January 1, 2021. These were soon replaced with thicker 50micron bags, which are now provided free at most shops.
However, with this practice, the very purpose behind banning single-use plastic bags seems defeated.
“I started carrying multi-use bags for grocery shopping as the ban set in. But now I see all supermarkets giving the thicker shopping bags for free. So, what have we achieved?” asked Mohammed Ali, a resident of Darsait.
On condition of anonymity, a mall manager said, “When we saw some players in the market giving free plastic shopping bags, we started doing the same in fear of losing customers.”
He added that the culture of carrying one’s own shopping bag to the supermarket doesn’t exist in Oman. “When one gets shopping bags for free for years, it becomes a habit. It is an inconvenience for both shoppers and supermarkets to charge for the bag.”
According to Kasbi, in cooperation with relevant authorities, “except for environmentally friendly polypropylene bags, EA will prevent the use of plastic bags of all thicknesses for shopping completely in the sultanate. The authority is also studying a ban on importing all plastic bags that are used for shopping”.
He informed that the authority has randomly recorded violations of shops distributing plastic bags. “They were warned and urged to adhere to the rules.”
The authority has cooperated with several relevant authorities, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources, Consumer Protection Authority, and Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion to spread awareness on the importance of using environmentally friendly bags, Kasbi informed.
“We distributed 1.1mn environmentally friendly bags this year. EA’s initiative targeted school and university students and citizen’s homes in several governorates. The campaign was held in cooperation with the governor’s offices in the wilayats. Many commercial centres have agreed to offer their customers eco-friendly bags for free,” Kasbi said.
“The authority has launched more than 25 awareness campaigns in several governorates to reduce the use of plastic, which are ongoing. Many Omani factories have started producing environmentally friendly bags to support EA’s decision and promote the circular economy.”