Polythene Manufacturers and Recyclers Association urged the government to rethink their decision to ban polythene wrapping sheets and increase the minimum thickness of polythene bags from 20 to 40 microns.
Association President Anura Wijetunge told the media that the twin decisions slated to take effect in the near future will badly hurt the industry as well as heap more burden on the consumer.
Wijetunge said the industry will have to import a large quantity of material to meet the 40 microns requirement making more foreign exchange outflows. The move will make release more polythene to the environment, he said.
Rs. 20,018 million was spent on imports related to the polythene manufacturing last year. In 2006, before the Central Environment Authority brought the micron 20 law, the amount was only Rs. 8,163 million, Wijetunge said.
“If the thickness of bags is to be increased to 40 microns, we will have to spend more monies for imports,” he said.
“If the government’s intention in increasing the thickness of polythene packing material is to discourage its use, an alternative has to be given first as polythene has become the cheapest and most used packing material in the country,” Wijetunge said
He said no country has banned polythene.
“In developed countries, per capita polythene consumption is around 80 kgs, but in our country, this is 6 kgs. The developed countries are not facing environmental hazards due to polythene as they have waste management methods. The answer to the issue is not banning polythene, but having effective laws, regulations and methods in waste management,” he said.
Meanwhile, Association Secretary Anura Herath said members of the association can produce degradable and compostable polythene if the government can do away with the 20 micron law.
He said such polythene will break into small particles within a year and will be fully degradable within five years.
Meanwhile, Association Vice President Vijitha Warnakulasuriya said the amount of polythene in the environment and money on imports related to the industry can be reduced with proper recycling.
Warnakulasuriya said this was not happening in a big way due to deficiencies in the waste collection methods. He said if used polythene can be collected separately, they can be effectively recycled and reused.
He said the Central Environmental Authority had not consulted the association before deciding on the new laws and added that their suggestions over the years to streamline the industry and minimise health hazards have fallen on deaf ears.
The association suggested proposals to overcome the issue, including proper waste management, implementing the 20 micron law to the letter, encouraging the production of degradable polythene, a national policy on waste management and encouraging recycling and reuse.