Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said in a cabinet meeting that the government has decided to ban single-use plastic items. Image Credit: APP

Islamabad: Pakistan has kickstarted the journey to reduce plastic waste with the approval of “Single Use Plastics Prohibition Regulations 2023” by the federal cabinet.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced this decision on World Environment Day on June 5 emphasizing the government’s commitment to reducing plastic waste. The new regulation aims to phase out single-use plastic items throughout Islamabad, the capital city. To ensure effective implementation, the government will introduce an action plan alongside the regulation. “I urge all provincial governments and the public at large to join us in reducing and help to beat plastic pollution in Pakistan,” PM Sharif said in a tweet.

Federal Minister for Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, Senator Sherry Rehman, said the government is committed to combatting plastic pollution with the ban on single-use polythene items in the Prime Minister Secretariat, federal ministries, and all government divisions.

Urgent need for action

Additionally, refillable water bottles and containers will be mandatory for official use in these institutions. The prime minister has directed all federal government entities, including the Prime Minister’s Office, to lead by example and strictly use only refillable water containers from June 5 onwards to tackle pollution caused by plastic water bottles.

Plastic manufacturers have also been given a clear directive to cease the production of non-degradable plastics. By August 1, 2023, the manufacturing of such plastics will be discontinued entirely. Senator Rehman highlighted the urgent need for action, noting that plastic waste, if left unchecked, would continue to pollute the environment and harm future generations.

“Plastics are not degrading even after a century. It is where it is and it is proliferating. By 2050, plastics will be more than marine life in world oceans,” she said. However, she noted that without active citizenship government could not police its policies and regulations as no policy was successful without student and youth engagement. “Unless a community, household, office, trader, manufacturer or others do not contribute their input, no policy can come from the blue as climate policy cannot be policed it demand mutual consensus.”

Waste management crisis

Pakistan generates over 49.6 million tonnes of solid wastes annually and witnesses a 2.4 per cent increase every year, according to the International Trade Administration of the US. More than 3.3 million tonnes of plastic are wasted each year in the country, as per recent estimates. Pakistan has the highest percentage of mismanaged plastic in South Asia. The country lacks proper waste management infrastructure and most of it ends in landfills, unmanaged dumps or strewn about land and water bodies.

Experts calls for national action plan on plastic waste

In seminars held across the country in connection with World Environment Day, speakers called for a strict ban on single-use plastic, a national action plan on plastic waste and the implementation of waste recycling programmes.

In addition to the government’s initiatives, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Coca-Cola Company have launched the Climate Resilience Programme which aims to enhance water stewardship and sustainable agriculture in the Punjab province by proactively identifying climate change risks and building resilience. Hammad Naqi Khan, director general of WWF-Pakistan, highlighted the severe impact of climate change on water resources in Pakistan and said that “it is crucial to improve water governance, transform the agri-food system, and enhance institutional capacity building to address water and food security challenges.”