Pakistan re-instates ban on single-use plastic bags in Lahore

Author: Veena Pathare

2020/08/19

SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Pakistan has re-instated a ban on single-use polyethylene (PE) plastic bags in Lahore, the capital of its most densely populated province of Punjab, and provided a 15-day grace period from early August to ensure compliance by allowing stores to arrange for alternatives.

Punjab province is home to as much as 60% of the country’s plastic processors.

“Even though the ban was announced in Punjab province October last year, it has been observed that it is followed only in some parts of the province,” a Lahore-based resident said.

In the country’s capital of Islamabad, which banned single-use plastic bags in August last year, implementation was also lax.

“Single-use plastic bags remain banned in the national capital of Islamabad since August, but here too, the ban is not strictly enforced,” said a resident of the city.

Big stores in the capital followed the ban but the smaller shops continued to flout the rules, said another resident.

The implementation of the ban was further challenged by the coronavirus outbreak since the start of the year.

Government authorities’ focus shifted from the plastic ban to enforcing measures necessary to curb the spread of the deadly flu-like disease.

Consumer behaviour has also shifted, with buyers seeking comfort in single-use disposable bags amid the pandemic.

The government appears serious in efforts to push for a “Clean Green Pakistan” agenda under Prime Minister Imran Khan, who assumed office in August 2018.

The ban on single-use plastic bags in 2019 was accompanied by crackdowns of shops flouting the regulation, and imposition of hefty fines on companies producing, selling or distributing these plastic bags.

Consequently, Pakistan’s demand for high density PE (HDPE) film has been significantly hit as plastic bags remain the single-largest application for the grade.

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The south Asian country imports 100% of its polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) requirements.

Even as other PE grades in non-bag applications continue to be sought, overall buying sentiment has been hampered because of the ban on single-use plastics.

Plastic bags make up a major portion of a processing company’s revenues, said a source at one of Pakistan’s largest plastic processors.

The ban on single-use plastic bags has been severely denting processors’ revenues, as well as cashflow.

There are talks that other provinces in the country may follow Punjab’s lead in banning plastic bags, which will further weaken Pakistan’s demand for polyolefins.

Focus article by Veena Pathare

Additional reporting by Tahir Ikram

Photo: Shops at Rawalpindi in Punjab province, Pakistan. 28 July 2020 (Photo by SOHAIL SHAHZAD/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

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