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Oman mulls ban on plastic bags - report

Authorities cite risks to the environment

Gulf News

Muscat: The Sultanate is weighing moves to outlaw the use of plastic bags, branding them a threat to the country’s pristine environment.

According to a report in the local Arabic daily, Oman, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs has constituted a multi-sectoral panel to give its verdict on the issue. Also represented on the committee are the ministries of Health, Commerce and Industry, and Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, as well Oman Environment Holding Services Company, and the Environmental Society of Oman (ESO).

A thumbs-down would effectively usher in measures restricting the use of plastic bags for shopping and other general retail applications, the newspaper said in a recent report.

Despite high-profile campaigns by ESO, an NGO that champions environmental causes in the Sultanate, efforts to discourage shoppers from using plastic bags have largely received short shrift. Some large supermarkets do offer paper-based and biodegradable bags to customers against a nominal price. The uptake of such alternatives has been minimal, say experts.

But with the use of plastic bags turning more rampant than ever — in fact, authorities concede there are no up-to-date figures on yearly consumption levels — the ministry is moving to tamp down on this widespread practice.

In addition to being environment-unfriendly, many types of plastic bags imported into the Sultanate do not conform to prescribed standards, officials warn. Used as makeshift packaging for foodstuff, substandard plastic bags also tend to leach chemicals into the food, they point out.

With the consumption of plastic bags expected to climb steadily, the ministry is planning to introduce measures to regulate imports and use of substandard brands in the Sultanate. A new Omani manufacturing code for plastic bags is proposed to be promulgated in this regard.