Mohammed bin Salim Al Toobi, Minister of Environment and Climate Affairs had told the Shura Council (the consultative assembly) that the ministry has completed regulation on the use of plastic bags, and are waiting for further guidelines.
“We have completed the regulation on the use of plastic bags to limit their hazards on the environment and human health, as well as the sustainability of the ecological system and biodiversity. We are waiting for the technical regulations from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.”
An official at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs added that “after studying the market and the types of bags, the decision will see the light of day soon after the final approval from the specifications and standards committee at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry,” local media Times of Oman reported.
12 million plastic bags used
Each month, 12 million plastic bags are provided for free to consumers in Muscat, Dr Hamad bin Mohammed Al Ghailani, director of Community Affairs and Environmental Awareness of the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) told FoodNavigator-Asia, citing an article written by Y magazine in 2016.
He added that Oman dumps 728 tonnes of plastic waste each year.
Consumers are also using more plastic bags than required, reaching “extreme proportions”, which further exacerbates the problem of plastic wastage.
“It is noticeable that people use a lot of bags when shopping; purchases that need five bags are distributed among 15 or 20 bags, and many people use the bags only once and then throw them away,” said Dr Hamad.
“Either way this simple reduction (in the number of plastic bags used) could substantially reduce the number of plastic bags consumed but is still not the ultimate solution. The aim is to make people aware of how harmful plastics are to the environment, marine life and us as humans eventually. It is important to acknowledge that plastics do not disappear, in fact break down into 'microplastics' which soon end up in the oceans, wadis, farms, etc and soon into the food chain.”
A manager of a supermarket chain also highlighted the same issue, saying that around 75,000 to 80,000 plastic bags are consumed in a day at his branch.
“On an average, we get around 15,000 visitors who take home around five bags each, every day,” he told local media.
The ESO is working on introducing environment-friendly bags as the government transitions towards a complete plastic bag ban in supermarkets.
It is collaborating with other entities from both private and government sector in working on a campaign to raise awareness.
The first phase of the campaign starts with a national competition to design a reusable bag. The winning design will be implemented and printed on 10,000 reusable bags which will be distributed over the second phase of the campaign across Oman.
Plastic regulation in the Middle East
Besides Oman, other countries in the Middle East had earlier regulated the use of plastics.
Five Waitrose supermarket chain stores in Abu Dhabi started a 12-week trial last month, where customers will be required to pay Dhs0.25 per single-use plastic bags, and are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags.
Since then, the use of plastic bags these stores was reduced by almost three quarters, The National reported.
Last year, Saudi Arabia also announced the move to prohibit 16 types of polypropylene and polyethylene products under 250 microns thick.
Shopping bags would be required to be made from approved oxo-degradable material. However, food packaging will be exempted from the requirement.
At 40kg per person each year, Saudi’s use of plastic bags is almost 20 times the global average, a European Union survey found. Meanwhile, plastic waste generated in the kingdom each year is equivalent to the weight of around 2m cars.
On the other hand, Turkey announced that it would impose fees on plastic bags from 2019.