By: Ruba Anabtawi
environmentally destructive plastic bags
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons:
Since the 1990s, the 1st of May has been considered an environmental day to ban plastic bags. This started when the Ladakhi Women's Coalition and other local bodies in India organized a campaign to ban this kind of environmentally harmful product. Many developed and developing countries, including Arab countries such as Sudan, Morocco, Algeria and recently in Jordan, have imposed taxes on the purchase of plastic bags to encourage dispensing. In fact, this experience proved its success at a high rate exceeding 90%, while other countries banned the use of plastic bags entirely in stores.
It is known that plastic is classified among the top 20 most dangerous products, because the source of its components are petroleum products and chemicals, which makes it dangerous to human and animal health and polluting the environment. This is in addition to its difficulty of organic decomposition because its chemical composition is in the form of long attached and repetitive molecules.
The last three decades have witnessed a global trend against plastics, specifically the most heavily traded and lightest “plastic bags.” This international trend makes us wonder about the real impediment of the Palestinian Authority in imposing a law banning or reducing the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags.
Why doesn’t the Palestinian Authority initially target the big shops in Palestinian cities? This is taking in consideration the obstacle of the political conditions and the difficulty of controlling the villages and towns outside its authority, while also noting that low-income developing countries such as India, Bangladesh, Sudan and Congo have been able to ban the use of plastic bags.
As an indicator of the growing awareness of citizens about plastic bags, Afaq Environmental Magazine distributed a questionnaire via its Facebook page on the audience’s opinions on introducing a Palestinian law that imposes fees on the use of plastic bags in order to reduce its use or replace it with cloth or paper bags. Most of the participants supported this suggestion, which indicates their acceptance and willingness in reducing the use of plastic bags.
Attira: Awareness before Law
To answer this question, the magazine met with the head of the Environmental Quality Authority, "Adalah Al-Atira", who confirmed that the Authority is moving towards environmental awareness against plastic and its dangers through community activities in schools and clubs. She also pointed out that the law will be applied in the future if the alternative is available in a way that plastic factories are not directly affected, but rather are directed to gradually change their production line to serve the preservation of the environment.
Attira confirmed, “I am against imposing a law, I raise awareness and then things come in harmony with any new law”. She explained that there are no actual policies or plans regarding plastic bags but there are plans towards reducing solid waste and encouraging its investment as part of the ministries’ national plan, which will be soon announced. She added “we are preparing a futuristic initiative called “A day without plastics,” in collaboration with environmental institutions, where we will produce cloth bags to distribute to shops, clubs and schools. And, in cooperation with Birzeit University Student Fund, a project was carried out to recycle street cloth banners into purchase bags.
Al-Attira noted that she does not underestimate the issue of banning plastic bags, but the citizens’ consumption of plastic is not comparable with the consumption of plastic by agricultural enterprises in the West Bank, which is not treated, but rather thrown in dumps or burned, causing significant pollution of the environment.
“We as an environment authority believe that our people are capable of change, especially when they have the right information and adequate awareness, and they will conduct the proper environmental behavior" Al-Attira added.
Translated by: Ghadeer Kamal Zaineh