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The Papua New Guinea Government will ban the import of plastic bags from 01 January — and is encouraging the people to instead start using bilum bags for shopping.
Agriculture Minister Tommy Tomscoll announced the ban on imported polyethylene plastic bags, saying they were biodegradable and would eventually “release toxic additives containing flame retardants, antimicrobials and plasticisers into the environment that would disrupt animal life, plant life and human life and pose biosecurity threats” to animals and plants.
All supermarkets around the country use plastic bags to pack shoppers’ items at the cashier. The plastic bags are later used to discard garbage in homes.
“This ban should present new opportunities for Papua New Guinean shoppers to use our traditional bilum bags while doing shopping,” Tomscoll said.
“We must support the growth of the bilum industry, where many of our women are involved in.”
He said with Papua New Guinea hosting many international events, the “image of cleanliness is everything, creating lasting impressions on our visitors”.
“This Government is determined to clean out the dirty plastic-littered streets of Port Moresby, Lae, Madang, Mt Hagen and a few other towns.”
Tomscoll has directed the National Agriculture Inspection Authority to enforce the ban from January 1.
Papua New Guinea will join countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, America and several Australian states in stopping the use of plastic bags.
Tomscoll said plastic bags tended to break down over a long period, “some taking 10 years”.
“These plastic bags commonly used as shopping and garbage bags have been frivolously abused by people resulting in littering on streets, work places, homes and the ocean without concern for human, animal and plant life,” Tomscoll said.
Shopping bags that are biodegradable with no polyethylene will be tried out.
Tomscoll said biodegradable bags could break down in different environments including salt water within months.
“They are certified compostable, making it completely safe, so that they are not only environmentally-friendly but also safe for homes, streets, plants and animals.”
According to internet search engine Wikipedia, non-compostable plastic bags can take centuries to decompose. In the early 2000s, many stores and companies began to use different types of biodegradable bags to comply with perceived environmental benefits.
Plastic shopping bags which escape the garbage collection process can end up in streams, which then lead them to end up in the open ocean. The way in which the bags float in open water can resemble a jellyfish, posing significant dangers to marine mammals and Leatherback sea turtles, when they are eaten by mistake and enter the animals’ digestive tracts.
A large number of cities and counties have banned the use of plastic bags by grocery stores or introduced a minimum charge.
In September 2014, California became the first US state to pass a law banning their use. Local manufacturers of plastic bags receive financial support to make durable bags.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS
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