By Matthias Samuel
The federal government has banned the use of polythene bags in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) since August 14, 2019. The ban on plastic and polythene shopping bags in the Federal Capital has yet to be fully implemented because shopkeepers and customers are having difficulty finding alternative bags. Even with the ban, in various markets plastic bags are still in use including in government controlled Sunday markets.
According to the Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat, the district administration and the Ministry of Climate Change have been working to fully implement the ban.
The government is also running a soft campaign, encouraging vendors and consumers to avoid using plastic bags as these are detrimental to the environment.
Simultaneously, the Ministry of Environment has also conducted raids in different areas of Islamabad and seized over 2.5 million polythene bags.
Last Tuesday, the district administration sealed the famous food outlet Savour Foods at Blue Area for not complying the ban orders. The administration also imposed an Rs 200,000 fine on Savour Foods. Besides, the administration confiscated the proscribed plastic shopping bags from the food outlet and handed over them alternative bags.
Following the imposition of ban in the Federal Capital, the Staff at the German Embassy in Islamabad also distributed clothing bags at Aabpara Market, Blue Area and a public school.
اسلام آباد میں پلاسٹک کے شاپروں پر پابندی عائد ہونے کے بعد، ہم نے آج آبپارہ مارکیٹ، بلیو ایریا اور ایک سرکاری اسکول میں کپڑے کے بیگز تقسیم کیے۔ ماحول کی خاطر پلاسٹک کا استعمال کم کرنے کے لئے لوگوں میں شعور اجاگر کرنا ضروری ہے! چیزوں کا دوبارہ استعمال ہی واحد حل ہے۔#Reuse#GREENit pic.twitter.com/f9MqhW177X
— German Embassy Islamabad (@GermanyinPAK) August 20, 2019
— France in Pakistan (@FranceinPak) August 22, 2019
Separately, the Punjab government also plans to impose a ban on polythene bags across the province. Likewise, the Sindh government has also announced its plan to make the province a plastic bag-free by October 2019.
Savor Food update. Mngment submitted unconditional apology,removed all their plastic bags & shifted to environment friendly bags. 2 lac fine submitted. Under the law it can’t be sealed for more than 24 hours w/o court orders. However FIR is there and culprits still under custody. pic.twitter.com/xgk1HGLxUd
— Deputy Commissioner Islamabad (@dcislamabad) August 21, 2019
Alternatives of polythene bags
Obviously things take time to settle down but the governments banning plastic bags should also provide some alternatives to these as shopkeepers, customers have no alternatives after plastic bag ban. However, following are some alternatives to plastic bags.
Jute or hessian, these bags are absolutely the best option. They are made from durable and naturally biodegradable vegetable fibers.
Canvas or calico, these Cotton bags can be used hundreds of times. They are also washable.
Reusable paper bags, Paper bags can be recycled but they generally only last a few shopping trips but still good for environment.
These are made from polypropylene, which is a by-product of oil refining, this is a fossil fuel-based bag. These green bags can be used for 2 years on average.
Matthias Samuel is a student of history in Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad, and occasionally writes blogs and articles.