polythene bags

The Environment Department has banned the use of polythene bags in shopping malls, department stores, bakeries and shops and launched an operation against the use of shopper bags. According to media reports in the first phase, notices are being issued to the major department stores.

Ban on the use of polythene bags all over Punjab

Meanwhile, the Lahore High Court has summoned a report on the implementation of its March 20, 2020 order regarding the use of polythene bags on August 31. The Punjab Environment Department had submitted a report in its writ petition regarding the use of polythene bags in the Lahore High Court, that major shopping malls, department stores, bakeries and shops were not complying with the ban.

Giving respite, they directed to implement the ban on the next hearing date after which a campaign has been launched in every district on the orders of Punjab Environment Department. Apart from Rawalpindi, operations have also been launched in other major cities of Punjab, including Lahore, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Sheikhupura and Multan.

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Punjab polythene bag ban

Punjab province is home to as much as 60% of the country’s plastic processors.

“Even though the ban was announced in Punjab province October last year, it has been observed that it is followed only in some parts of the province,” a Lahore-based resident said.

In the country’s capital of Islamabad, which banned single-use plastic bags in August last year, implementation was also lax. “Single-use plastic bags remain banned in the national capital of Islamabad since August, but here too, the ban is not strictly enforced,” said a resident of the city.

Big stores in the capital followed the ban but the smaller shops continued to flout the rules, said another resident. The implementation of the ban was further challenged by the coronavirus outbreak since the start of the year.

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Coronavirus interference in enforcement of the ban 

Government authorities’ focus shifted from the plastic ban to enforcing measures necessary to curb the spread of the deadly flu-like disease. Consumer behaviour has also shifted, with buyers seeking comfort in single-use disposable bags amid the pandemic.

The government appears serious in efforts to push for a “Clean Green Pakistan” agenda under Prime Minister Imran Khan, who assumed office in August 2018.

The ban on single-use plastic bags in 2019 was accompanied by crackdowns of shops flouting the regulation, and imposition of hefty fines on companies producing, selling or distributing these plastic bags.

Read More: Ban on plastic bags across cities in Pakistan

Pakistan’s high demand for PE and PP 

Consequently, Pakistan’s demand for high density PE (HDPE) film has been significantly hit as plastic bags remain the single-largest application for the grade.

Pakistan imports 100% of its polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) requirements. Even as other PE grades in non-bag applications continue to be sought, overall buying sentiment has been hampered because of the ban on single-use plastics.

Plastic bags make up a major portion of a processing company’s revenues, said a source at one of Pakistan’s largest plastic processors.

The ban on single-use plastic bags has been severely denting processors’ revenues, as well as cashflow.

There are talks that other provinces in the country may follow Punjab’s lead in banning plastic bags, which will further weaken Pakistan’s demand for polyolefins.