This weekend, the kingdom announced the move to prohibit 16 types of polypropylene and polyethylene products under 250 microns thick. It will be followed by a further ban on the manufacture of similar plastics that will come in force by October.
Tamis Al-Hammadi, spokesman for the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organisation (SMQO), said that plastics used in food manufacturing will be exempt from the ban, though it would still apply to grocery bags.
At 40kg per person per year, Saudi’s use of plastic bags is almost 20 times the global average, according to a European Union survey. Meanwhile, plastic waste generated in the kingdom each year is equivalent to the weight of around 2m cars.
Since March Jeddah municipality has enforced a ban on the use of plastic in the handling of hot food items in restaurants and bakeries—albeit due to concerns over the safety of plastics in close proximity to foods.
The city promptly closed 354 bakeries and food shops following 716 inspections within a week its the ban being implemented.
The SMQO believes that discarded plastic bags have “killed many horses, gazelles and rare birds and fish”. The products have also been shown to affect plant life and prevent rainwater from seeping into deeper layers of the soil, which contributes to increase desertification.
Al-Hammadi said that plastics companies should adopt technology to make their products organically dissolvable by incorporating certain substances in the manufacturing process.
To do so, he advised, would require low additional costs for factories and would not necessitate a complete change in the production process.