Growing pressure from an environmentally responsible public is prompting top supermarkets and traders in the Sultanate to switch to biodegradable packing to reduce plastics pollution. Many shoppers are willing to even pay extra to make sure that the packing is bio-degradable, say retailers based in the capital.
When the authorities concerned started a campaign to reduce the use of plastic, they received an overwhelming response from retailers and residents. The Environment Society of Oman has been fighting against the plastic menace for years now. Their efforts are yielding results as more and more retailers are shifting to biodegradable packing.
Wherever businesses have switched to environment-friendly bags, it has been appreciated. Naji Darib, Operations Manager for Spinneys and Al Fair supermarkets, said: “We have switched to biodegradable shopping bags and encourage customers to use reusable bags. A variety of bags are available in our stores. Reusable bags can be used for long periods, while plastic bags are usually reused only 2-3 times. Customers appreciate what we are doing.”
The biodegradable plastic bags were priced similar to the non-biodegradable bags, said the operations manager of another hypermarket. Earlier, the bags were imported from the UAE but now they were available locally, he said.
There is an overwhelming desire among the people of Muscat to reduce the use of plastic bags because of the serious harm it causes the environment. They appreciate the switch to biodegradable bags and paper bags by some businesses, but feel, through education all people and establishments must switch to environment-friendly bags.
One way to reduce the use of plastic bags was to ask people to pay for them, said Mohammed Al Hinai, 28, an engineer. “It is being done in some countries. People then will start bringing their own reusable bags. It will work even if the charge is 5-10 baisa. It is important that reusable bags be used many times more for their environmental benefits to be realised,” he pointed out.
Plastic bags are toxic to humans and marine life when it enters the seas. “It is the responsibility of all to take care of the environment, “ said Ibrahim Al Mamari, 32, who runs Disenos kiosk in Muscat Grand Mall, adding that , “there should be signboards in public places asking people to reduce use of such bags and children should be educated so that they insist parents follow environment-friendly ways”.
Cloth bags are a good alternative, said Ahmed Ali, 26, a customer care executive, adding, “In our home we use cloth bags which can be reused again and again and there is neither cost nor any waste.”
There were some who were aware of the problem but did nothing about it. Fahd Al Bahri, 26, said he knew that plastic bags pollute but was usually in a hurry and took last minute decisions to shop without a reusable bag.
Thabit Al Mahri, 32, an engineer working for a private firm, feel that plastic water bottle recycling is a bigger issue. “If people are charged 50 baisa more for a bottle that is refunded when it is returned it would help protect the environment,” he added.