Manufacturers And Traders Of Polythene Bags Want To Sabotage ‘Clean and Green’ Initiative
Manufactures and some traders’ bodies have been trying to sabotage the government’s Clean and Green Pakistan initiative which involves banning single-use plastic bags in Islamabad.
The vested interests, in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have launched a concerted campaign by spreading fabricated and unsubstantiated stories about the company Gaia which promotes polypropylene bags that have been approved by the government to replace single-use polythene bags.
The government issued a statutory notification (SRO) which reads, “Permitted bag means the bad made of material other than polythene and includes, but not limited to, bags made up of jute, paper, cloth, papyrus, 100% degradable material like potato starch etc.”
An official of the Ministry of Environment, while requesting anonymity told Naya Daur, “The purpose is simple. If this landmark and much needed initiative fails in Islamabad, it would subsequently be reflected across the country and would result in the failure to replace the single-use polyethylene bags.”
When contacted, Gaia Chief Executive Officer Sumaira Khan refuted allegations that her company was given exclusive rights to produce polypropylene bags and added that there were well over 16 plants who had identical machinery and technology and were well equipped to manufacture these bags.
Regarding a certain video doing rounds on social media which supposedly showed Gaia’s bag to have a polythene lining and hence detrimental to the environment, Sumaira Khan refuted the allegation that there was a polythene lining in the bag. She said, “We at Gaia are very clear on the product we manufacture and we completely stand by and own our product. The Gaia bag is made out of degradable polypropylene which is reusable and recyclable.”
She said that her team was happy to support the initiative of the Ministry of Climate Change to ban single-use polythene shopping bags. She added that in support of the initiative, Gaia helped distribute polypropylene bags as part of an awareness campaign and to introduce the concept of ‘Reduce, Recycle and Reuse’ not only to the consumer but to the market in general.
Sumaira Khan said, “Let me be very categorical. This was a campaign against single use shopping bags and not an anti-plastic campaign and we felt that Gaia’s bags, which are made from degradable, reusable and recyclable polypropylene were the right fit as alternate retail shopping bags.”
Gaia’s CEO also apprised Naya Daur of her meeting with Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul Wazir, saying that because Gaia and the ministry had a common cause, it was logical for them to work together. She added, “I think this is an exemplary example of a private sector-public sector partnership, as it was purely run on a commitment to clean up the environment and to introduce products to the markets that would leave a minimum carbon footprint.”
She lamented an incident in which the director general of Environmental Protection Agency raided some stores and a large quantity of laminated bags were confiscated, adding that in the presence of media, the DG EPA portrayed it as a huge financial scandal knowing full well that the bags were distributed free of cost by GAIA and fell in the ‘permitted category’ as per the government’s SRO.
Environmentalists in Pakistan have been pushing the government for decades to save the environment from the menace of single-use polythene bags that litter landscape and last for thousands of years.
Chairman Pakistan Polypropylene Manufacturers Association Iskander Khan told Naya Daur that there are 16 polypropylene manufacturing plants across the country that had the capacity to produce identical block bottom laminated packaging. He also said that there were 30 plants that had the capacity to produce laminated stitched shopping bags along with over 250 plants that had the capacity to produce woven polypropylene bags.
The polypropylene industry is governed by the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control. A certificate and a license is required to be printed on each sack to ensure the high quality of polypropylene laminated and non-laminated sacks. Iskander Khan said, “We are not against the polythene industry. We just want that, like the rest of the world, 50-micron unit polythene bags be manufactured and recycle plants be set up so that the bags do not ruin our environment.”
The author is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist and contributes to different national and international papers and journals.