PNG BANS ALL PLASTIC BAGS

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No monitoring system in place however

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 31, 2009) – Non-biodgradable plastic bags must not be imported, manufactured, sold or used starting today.

But there is no monitoring system in place to make sure that plastic bags that are used from tomorrow onwards are biodegradable, thus making the ban on these particular bags tough to enforce.

The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), which has imposed the ban, is still discussing with stakeholders on identifying a reputable laboratory, most probably owned and operated by overseas operators, to test plastic bags to make sure they are biodegradable.

And the PNG Manufacturers Council (PNGMC), while calling on members to abide by the ban, said it was not consulted before the ban was imposed, although it was consulted by the department when it initially came up with its plan for the ban several years ago.

Chey Scovell, PNGMC chief executive officer, said while the ban was necessary for environmental reasons, the problem was not the plastic bags but widespread littering which had caused plastic bags to be found in waterways, seas and the natural environment.

The ban is in line with the Government’s declaration of the "Environment (ban on non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags) Policy 2009".

The environment policy was enacted into law under the Environment Act 2000.

The policy covers all persons and companies.

The DEC has made attempts since 2005 to ban plastic bags, but opposition by business houses has delayed it until today.

Gwen Sissiou, DEC’s deputy secretary for policy, said the department was holding discussions on the ban which also included finding the appropriate laboratory to test the composition of plastic bags as per the regulation.

"If there is a suitable laboratory, then we will use that.

"At this point in time, we do not have a laboratory," she said, adding that a laboratory operated by a reputable international organisation or institution would be hired.

Ms Sissiou said the ban only covered plastic bags and not other plastic products.

"We are only doing plastic bags because of the environment effect.

"We are focusing on plastic bags because we know biodegradable bags are being manufactured," she said.

Most business houses, especially manufacturers and users of such plastic bags, had indicated they were now ready to operate in line with the ban.

Colorpak Ltd, which manufactures plastic bags, said it was ready for the regulation and Foodworld supermarket said it had been using biodegradable plastic bags since 2005, and was also selling biodegradable bags to customers.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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