Traffic congestion was reported in and around Colombo Fort during the last week due to a protest conducted by polythene manufacturers against the polythene ban which is to be implemented from 1 September 2017. The protest was conducted on 21 August in front of the People’s Park Complex. Several polythene manufacturers took part in the protest organized by the All Ceylon Polythene Manufacturers and Recyclers Association (ACPMRA).
A special committee is to be appointed by the Cabinet to look into the matter of polythene ban. The committee is expected to reconsider the polythene ban and come up with recommendations before January 2018.
According to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) the major reason behind the polythene ban is the manufacture of high density polythene which causes a huge environmental damage. They said, dengue outbreak which destroyed a lot of lives during the past few weeks too is one of the outcomes of the environmental pollution caused due to improper waste management.
The government along with the CEA banned the use of three types of polythene. They are lunch sheets, shopping bags, and grocery bags. They have also banned polystyrene boxes.
Chairman of CEA Lal Dharmasiri said,”Sri Lanka imports 20,000 metric tons of raw materials from overseas, which are extremely harmful for the environment. Twenty million lunch sheets and 15 million shopping bags are being used by people every day.
Lunch sheets are not being recycled. Only a very little quantity of shopping bags is being recycled due to the inclusion of sodium chloride in them. Manufacture of non-recyclable polythene is a threat to the environment as well as waste management.”
According to Dharmasiri, by 2020 Sri Lanka will approximately produce 5 billion polythene bags per day, and the Western Province will literally be covered in polythene.
“Most countries are going forward in terms of reducing environmental pollution. Forty-eight countries have banned the use of shopping bags. Cuba has completely banned the use of polythene. Eleven States in India too have banned polythene. These countries have been successful in reducing their environmental pollution. So, Sri Lanka too should take the first steps in lessening the environmental damages,” said Dharmasiri.
He also said, “This concept is new to us. A lot of people suggest the control of polythene use. We have tried to control it for a very long time and failed. Hence, we decided to ban polythene completely. We understand the difficulties that polythene manufacturers have to face, but there is no other way to reduce the damage that polythene has caused than banning it.”
Chairman of ACPMRA Anura Wijetunga told Ceylon Today that he had already presented an alternative to the polythene ban, to which the CEA has paid least attention and consideration.
ACPMRA had suggested the alternative of oxo-biodegradable plastic technology to be used in Sri Lanka, to which the government and the CEA have objected. Oxo-biodegradable technology is a green technology which is innovated as an alternative to common plastics that create a more harmful effect to the people in the society.
“If the polythene industry is to be completely shut down, 40,000 employees directly and 300,000 employees indirectly will lose their jobs. Their lives will be very badly affected if the government holds on to this decision. Also, ACPMRA is not an unauthorized business. Therefore, the government or the CEA has no authority to ban an authorized business,” said Wijetunga.
Wijetunga also said ACPMRA will not stop manufacturing polythene until their raw material stocks are over. “We have stocks for another three months, and we have imported them from overseas (Middle East, Malaysia). For the imported raw materials we have paid 30 per cent tax. Therefore, we should definitely make use of the tax paid raw materials, instead of throwing them away,” he said.
According to Wijetunga, ACPMRA has already given the first signal of objection for the polythene ban. “We hope the government will not keep going against us unjustifiably. If they continue to do so, we too as polythene manufacturers will have to take necessary legal action to protect ourselves,” he added.