With the impending polythene ban set for the 01st of September 2017 in Sri Lanka. We look at the different perspectives and stands taken by different affected parties.
The President, Maithreepala Sirisena stated some time ago that there would be a total polythene ban in Sri Lanka starting on the 01st September 2017. The use of any polythene, even shopping bags and lunch sheets which have now become everyday items to the majority of the public would also be banned. The move drew mixed reactions from all segments of society that will be affected from housewives to industrialists. Here is what we found out.
The high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and recycling industry spoke out about the impending ban to say that this could very likely affect the retail economy, garbage disposal and exports of the country. They further mentioned that the ban will cause a loss of 345000 jobs across the island overnight. The All Ceylon Polythene Manufacturers’ and Recyclers’ Association Chairman Anura Wijethunga said, “The new polythene ban is an industry and a humanitarian catastrophe that kills 345000 livelihoods overnight.” Wijethunga and over 300 manufacturers of polythene met the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on the 08th of August to request for immediate intervention and some sort of relief. They further complained that nobody lends to the industry now and therefore the organizations are facing a liquidity crisis among other issues.
The Secretary of the Sri Lanka Institute of Packaging, Upul Abeywardene said that the ban is both good and bad at the same time. On the negative side he pointe out the difficulties that the small scale business who manufacture polythene will face soon as well as those individuals who sell lunch packets for a living. However, he also stressed on the fact that as a fast developing nation the government and the private sector should come together to give the people practical alternatives before the ban is put into effect. He further added that as this has not been done, he does not see how the government can actually substitute the polythene that has been banned.
As the Sunday Observer recorded, housewives too had a problem with not being able to use lunch sheets but then also stated that the option of a lunch box was not tough and only needed getting used to. Officers at a mercantile firm had favoured the ban and said that the only issue to make the ban actually successful and practical is the lack of substitutes being offered by the government.
On the other hand, supermarket chains such as Keells seem to be on the progressive end of the incident, starting to offer green shopping bag substitutes to their customers instead of the polythene ones. However, because there is a charge on the new eco-friendly bag, customers raised their voice to ask why they cannot issue it FOC like the normal shopping bag was offered. To this, the supermarket chain responded saying that they are constantly on the search for economical and eco-friendly options to help customers with their shopping experience ad that the new bag that has been introduced, is listed at subsidized pricing at Keells Super and that they will continue to work on this.
When the News First Facebook page posted a video indicating the polythene ban in Sri Lanka, the comments were majorly those that criticized the lack of planning and raising awareness by the government. The public stated that while the intentions may be great, the fact that no substitutes are being provided is not a great idea if this ban is to be successful.
Even when Pulse uploaded a video under the hashtag #BeInformed, the comments spoke about the government’s lack of planning and failure to provide practical solutions for the unemployment crisis and the substitutes for polythene which have not yet been given.
Overall, it is safe to say, that given the current garbage issue in Sri Lanka and the level of environmental pollution caused by it, that this is in fact a great idea. However, it is also common sense that when a substance that has been playing a major role in the everyday lives of the people of a country has been banned, no matter how harmful it is, it will cause issues unless the banned substance has been successfully substituted by another friendly version. Where are the substitutes? Where are the solutions to the possible unemployment that could arise? Even the EU had stated that the oxo-biodegradable bags suggested by the government may not actually be environmentally friendly. So how successful will this ban be? As in most other instances, there is a clear lack of planning and generating awareness as well as finding practical solutions that hinder the movement even though it is a necessary and a positive one.