Though the ban on plastic bags came into force on Aug 14, people were still using them at the government-run Sunday bazaar in H-9. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Though the ban on plastic bags came into force on Aug 14, people were still using them at the government-run Sunday bazaar in H-9. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: The federal government’s ban on plastic and polythene shopping bags in the capital has yet to be fully implemented, with shopkeepers and customers having difficulty finding alternative bags.

The use of plastic bags was banned in Islamabad by a cabinet decision from Aug 14.

However, visits to various markets found that plastic bags were still in use – including in government controlled Sunday markets.

Plastic bags still in use at various markets

Shopkeepers and customers Dawn spoke to praised the government’s decision, saying that people would start using alternative bags as time goes on.

“Banning shopping bags is a big decision, and such initiatives take some time to properly implement,” an official from the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) who was deputed at the Sunday market in H-9, said.

He said he saw many customers who brought fabric bags to shop.

“We had two stalls at the market dealing exclusively with plastic bags, but we closed them today. Gradually, in the next phase, we will start action against stallholders who are using plastic bags,” he said.

He added that the management had shown some leniency towards stallholders on Sunday because they were unable to buy biodegradable bags from wholesalers due to the Eid holidays.

However, shopkeepers in the rural areas expressed no concerns regarding the ban, saying that they would begin using biodegradable bags when they get them.

“We heard there was a ban on plastic bags on the news, but we have no idea how to get rid of plastic bags as there is no alternate so far,” a grocery store owner in Bhara Kahu, Arshad Ali, said.

Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat told Dawn that the district administration and Ministry of Climate Change have been working to fully implement the ban.

A banner installed at the market says the use of plastic bags is harmful to the environment while their sale continues unabated. — White Star
A banner installed at the market says the use of plastic bags is harmful to the environment while their sale continues unabated. — White Star

“We are running a soft campaign in the first 10 days, such as lifting shopping bags from shops, because the Islamabad High Court has also directed us not to take corrosive action until the next date of hearing,” he said.

Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency Director General Farzana Altaf said four teams are in the field to ensure the ban on plastic bags is implemented. She said that the agency has lifted around two tons of polythene bags from various malls in the last two days.

The ministry has decided not to target shopkeepers and vendors in the first phase, she said. Instead, action will be taken against wholesalers to cut off the supply.

“Our fight will continue until the last bag. No one will be allowed to commit environmental crime, as the use of plastic bags is an environmental crime,” she claimed.

Ms Altaf said people need to change their behaviour.

“If we can keep a mobile phone in our hands, why not a small fabric bag while shopping,” she asked.

She said some people have been talking about biodegradable bags, but the only alternatives are paper or fabric bags, which can decompose.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2019