In an era where world is riddled with conflicts, human rights abuses and violence, climate change and global warming are deem as a lesser issue due to their un-instantaneous affects. Any step in direction of curbing pollution and any activity aiding in re-dwindling of environment should not only be appreciated, not should also be incentivized. Amid of growing skepticism surrounded hazards of climate change, govt. of Sindh, followed by Federal govt., has taken a bold decision of banning manufacturing, sale, purchase and use of non-biodegradable plastic bags.
Though the decision of restricting the plastic inflow by imposing a ban on single use plastic bags sounds great, the economics surrounding the ban in addition to the lingering question on the availability and applicability of available alternatives remains unanswered. This policy decision can only yield results if users, without any ado, simply switch to alternatives such as paper, cloth or jute bags.
Imperative to understand that alternatives for the users to replace plastic bags are either not in place or unavailable at required scale. Out rightly banning a widely use commodity, without viable alternatives will create a mess. Such policy decisions needs to be backed by a strong policy homework. The policy framework, concerning public interests, should focus on multiple key deliverables such as its utility value, socio-economic damage, and availability of resources, market adaptability and resource efficiency.
Excessive importance is been given recycling the plastic waste in current paradigm. But, alone cycling will not thwart the ever increasing environmental loss. No one can deny recycling, repair and refurbishing have their own place in a circular economy. However, the dependence on a one underdeveloped phenomena that takes your waste and turns it into something valuable is far from reality. Response to any policy initiative must be made public friendly and considers all questions concerning to feasible business models. Without necessary policy measures, plastic ban will never see its fate, else it would grow into a black market.
A blanket ban on plastic will work in countries where adequate laws and their implementation are in place. Denmark, Canada and Sweden has cut down their plastic waste to a great extent by combining regulation and taxation. We all know how good we are in implementing our laws. We have seen what happened to the ban imposed on sale of ‘Gutka’ in Sindh.
It’s high time to explore modern legislative measures to address prevailing issues. It is interesting to refer to India’s experience in fighting plastic. An innovative approach to deal with plastic bags to introduce ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’. It’s a policy initiative which make the producer of the plastic responsible for the cleanup or recycling of the plastic. It’s a unique and innovative concept in corporate governance that puts responsibility of the all the side-effects of the products, from production process till consumption, on the manufacturer. Also, it would have been great if govt. ministries and departments had also taken initiatives in line with the provincial govt. Like Pakistan Railways, PIA and other govt. entities stands with the plastic ban. It is far easier to implement the ban on railway stations and in PIA service.
Bottom line is that imposing a ban on anything is never a solution to any problem. People, even knowing the hazards of plastic, will never shun using it. It is dilemma of the commons that they will seek short term convenience over long term survival. The initiative of plastic free society can only succeed in a certain context, where coordination and cohesiveness is complemented at all decision making forums, rather than just passing a piece of resolution.