Ban on plastic bags in Valley proves a non-starter

Kathmandu, April 17

The Nepali New Year 2074 marked two years since the government banned polythene bags in Kathmandu. The ban, however, has been far from effective.

According to Nepal Plastic Manufacturers’ Association, imported polythene bags are easily available in Kathmandu, as the country imports massively from China and India, even though the Nepali plastic industry is about to shut down.

Sharad Sharma, NPMA chair, said that about 30 per cent of approximately 200 plastic manufacturing factories have already shut down in Kathmandu Valley.

“The factories that are running are compelled to run partially for two or three days a week. So none of the factories are running full time after the ban was imposed,” Sharma told The Himalayan Times. “This, however, has not had any significant impact on the market as anyone can buy as many polythene bags as they want,” Sharma added.

Sharma, like many from the plastic industry, blames the government for imposing a ‘one-sided ban’ that has destroyed the local businesses and opened the market for international business. “The blanket ban is hurting all our businesses. They should be imposing the ban on the basis of weight and type of polythene.”

The Department of Environment has said that there is still confusion regarding which method to use for effective implementation of the ban.

“If the department pushes for the ban, it can’t do so effectively because of its small structure and limited resources. If not, how can the ban then be regulated?” an authority at the department asked, requesting anonymity. “Such issues are under discussion, so the already imposed ban is ineffective due to lack of regulatory body to oversee the implementation.”

The previous Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment had declared Kathmandu Valley a polythene-bag-free area from April 14, 2015.

After the Gorkha earthquake that year, the ban was virtually neglected as the government diverted focus on search, rescue, and relief operations. Since the beginning, the ban did not affect consumption, production, and import and export of plastic bags.

The government, once again, imposed a nationwide ban on use, sale, distribution, import and export of plastic bags from the new fiscal on July 16, 2016.

The Plastic Bag Directive- 2014 had restricted production, sale, and distribution of plastic bags below 30 microns. Plastic entrepreneurs had demanded at least six months’ time to implement this directive, but the government gave them a month to search for alternatives.