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Biodegradable plastic became available after the notification on the reinforcement of the ban
Biodegradable plastic became available after the notification on the reinforcement of the ban

NECS claims it is serious about plastic ban

Months after the National Environment Commission Secretariat (NECS) banned single-use plastic carry bags, doma wrappers and ice cream pouches, the market is flooded with various plastic bags.

The NECS secretary and officials of the waste management division conducted a press conference yesterday to reiterate the enforcement and implementation of the plastic ban.

According to the secretary, Sonam P Wangdi, the current ban was focused on single-use plastic carry bags, doma wrappers, and ice cream pouches but people started using non-woven carry bags and biodegradable plastic bags.

“The ban is inclusive of non-woven carry bags, biodegradable plastic bags, and thin handle-less plastics,” he said.

Sonam P Wangdi said NECS did not impose the ban suddenly as it would cause inconvenience to people. In previous interviews, NECS said they would go slow with the ban to give time for business entities distributing biodegradable bags to sell their stocked bags.

He, however, said that there are backdoor entrances of biodegradable plastic in the market. “People think biodegradable plastic is environment-friendly but they contain compounds and additives similar to conventional plastic carry bags.”

He said biodegradable plastics gained momentum after the notification on the reinforcement of the ban. “The “environment-friendly plastics” are divided into bio-plastics, biodegradable plastics, and eco plastics. Except for the latter, the other two leaves behind toxic residues and plastic fragments.”

Biodegradable plastics are made from the same materials as conventional petroleum-based plastics and have chemicals which are added to help break down the materials rapidly when exposed to air and light.

According to Sonam P Wangdi, based on research carried out on the degradability of biodegradable plastics, more than 150 organisations throughout the world banned oxo-biodegradable plastics as it was found to be unsafe in nature.

Without controlled temperature and light for partial degradation, biodegradable plastic forms microplastic, thus causing bioaccumulation and biomagnifications.

“Recycling and composting is not suitable due to the presence of chemical additives,” Sonam P Wangdi said.

Similarly, non-woven carry bags, which are equally popular among people are made from molten plastic films, which release harmful substances when exposed to high temperature. It also takes more than 50 years to degrade.

NECS claimed that once the public is aware of the types of plastic, they plan to enforce the ban phase by phase.

“With wide public outreach and involvement of stakeholders, implementation won’t be a problem,” the secretary said. “We will bring the police on board and start infringement notice system to monitor the ban.”

Meanwhile, many people assume the ban is not serious. Some think it is ineffective.

Plastic ban was first enforced in 1999. Ministry of economic affairs reinforced the ban in 2004, 2005, and 2009. The fourth reinforcement was started this April.

NECS officials say the country is grappling with increased plastic waste. Last year Thimphu alone generated 13 percent of plastic waste.

Choki Wangmo

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