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Pakistan legislates to make disposable plastic products oxo-biodegradable

Symphony Environmental Technologies plc, a company in advanced plastic technologies, welcomed legislation in Pakistan which prohibits the import, manufacturing, stockpiling, trade, supply, distribution, sale and use all disposable plastic products made wholly or substantially of polyethylene or polypropylene or polystyrene – unless they are oxo-biodegradable.

The legislation – the Prohibition of Non-degradable Plastic Products (manufacture, sale and usage) Regulations 2013 was announced January 31, 2013 by the Federal Minister for Climate Change, and compliance is required in the federal territory as of April 2013.

The law prohibits not only the manufacture of conventional disposable plastic products in Pakistan, but also prevents them being imported into Pakistan. This means that all companies anywhere in the world exporting disposable plastic products to Pakistan made from or packaged in conventional or bio-based PE, or PP, or in PS must make and/or package them in future with oxo-biodegradable plastic technology from a supplier registered with the Pakistan government.

Symphony is bringing this to the urgent attention of their distributors serving more than 90 countries around the world.

Michael Laurier, chief executive officer of Symphony, said, “This legislation is an important step forward for Pakistan in protecting its cities, lands, waterways and coasts from the blight of plastic pollution, because it is not possible to collect or control all of the plastic, which would otherwise lie or float around in the environment for decades. The government of Pakistan has not banned plastic altogether, as it is a low-cost material essential for everyday living, and for protecting food from damage and contamination.

In his briefing, the Minister said that the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (PAK-EPA) had considered different options to deal with the plastic bag issue, which included a complete ban on plastic bags; or the introduction of photo-degradable plastic bags; hydro-soluble plastic bags; or oxo-biodegradable plastic bags. They recommended that oxo-biodegradable technology should be used. The Minister added that the Ministry of Environment had held meetings with the Plastic Bag Manufacturers Association and with users and exporters and that a consensus had been reached on oxo-biodegradable technology.

The Minister continued that “Plastic bags made with this technology if left in open air or water absorb oxygen, which gradually weakens the internal bonds of the plastic material thereby allowing biological degradation to take place. Finally the bag will vanish leaving behind humus (a non-toxic product).”

The Minister said that a report by PAK-EPA showed that in 2004 about 55 billion plastic bags were being manufactured and consumed annually in Pakistan and that if current trends continued consumption would reach 112 billion by 2015.

The report said that more than 8,000 plastic bag factories were operating in the country. The Minister noted that “oxo-biodegradable technology is simple and needs no alteration in machinery nor in the manufacturing process. A small quantity of olefin-based additive is mixed with the raw material (granules) to develop biodegradable properties in plastic.”

The Minister concluded by saying “PAK-EPA has approached local and multinational companies and users to promote oxo-biodegradable plastic bags, and the Lahore and Karachi Chamber of Commerce held workshops on biodegradable plastics to create awareness among entrepreneurs. Because of these efforts, a number of users like; Dawn Bread, KFC, McDonalds, Hyper Star, Sazgar, DHA, ICI Polyester, MENUE etc. have started using oxo-biodegradable plastic bags as part of their social responsibility.”