BEIRUT: Around 280 million tons of plastic items were produced in 2016 in the world, 30 percent of which are single-use plastics according to a report published by the United Nations.
This constitutes a serious environmental issue as products made out of plastic can take between 10 to 1000 years to decompose. It also has serious consequences on marine littering, given that according to the UN, more than eight million tons of plastic are tossed in the oceans every year.
This environmental issue has been recently gaining global attention as it has impacts and ramifications on tourism, fisheries and marine wildlife. It also has indirect impacts on human beings as plastic particles are entering the food chain following the consumption of seafood.
According to the UN, around 127 countries have adopted various forms of legislation, such as supervisory measures on the production, the distribution, the use and the disposal of plastic bags in order to address the issue, limit littering and reduce the use of plastics.
The most common regulation is the limitation of free distribution of plastic bags in retails. Other regulations include the banning of certain materials, such as polystyrene or certain products like packaging, cups, plates, and straws. Moreover, certain countries have introduced taxes on the production and the manufacture of plastic bags.
A local initiative has been undertaken by the municipality of Beit Mery, headed by mayor Roy Abou Chedid, to reduce the use of plastic bags in shops and supermarkets within the municipal area.
The decision signed on May 2 of 2019 by the mayor highlighted that local shops should have tote bags with their logo and the logo of the municipality of Beit Mery on it. The alternative environmentally friendly bags are to be distributed for free for each purchase exceeding 50,000 Lebanese pounds.
Plastic bags will still be available for the price of 250 LBP/bag for those who wish to purchase them. This fee is to be used to finance the production of tote bags and constitutes a financial incentive aiming at reducing the use of plastics.
To launch this campaign, the municipality will distribute a quantity of tote bags, allowing for local shops to have the necessary time to secure the environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic bags necessary for the implementation of this initiative.
However, this initiative is not the first of its kind in Lebanon as the municipality of Byblos headed by the mayor Wissam Zaarour also issued a decision in July 2018 informing shop owners to replace plastic bags with eco-friendly alternatives in accordance with the city’s environmental plan. Retailers were given a deadline until the end of 2018 to ensure the adoption of this measure.
Moreover, the municipality of Byblos launched a campaign in December 2018 to distribute eco-friendly tote bags to households within the parameters of the municipality. The project was developed to raise environmental awareness and limit the use of plastic bags.
Taking similar initiatives is crucial particularly in a country with no proper waste management like Lebanon, given that plastic items will eventually end up in landfills or even in the sea given that some landfill sites are near the shore such as the “Costa Brava.”
However, it’s also important to ensure the implementation of these environmental measures through continuous monitoring and taking corresponding legal actions in cases of non-compliance.
Such initiatives shouldn’t be limited to a few municipalities; instead, they should be replicated and reproduced throughout the country to ensure better protection of the environment.
Reem Khamis graduated from the Lebanese American University with a bachelor of Architecture and accomplished her masters in Environmental and Energy Management at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Her thesis was an emphasis on urban resilience and climate change adaptation in megacities using a comparative approach of Cairo, London and New York. Khamis is currently undergoing her Ph.D. studies in Environmental and Energy Solutions at the University of Pau and Pays de L'Adour in France.
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