The Jordan Food and Drug Administration (JFDA) announced plans to ban the use of plastic bags starting next year. The ruling also applies to plastic containers that come in direct contact with food products (think take-away and deli counter sales).
The action seeks to safeguard public health and address excessive use of disposable plastic products.“The well-being of consumers is all that we care about,” JFDA Director General Hayel Obeidat told The Jordan Times.
Bakeries and produce stands must switch to paper or reusable fabric bags; restaurants that dish out plastic plates will be required to use greener alternatives; and roadside coffee shops must stick to paper cups. No word on what constitutes “greener” substitutes, nor how the ban will be enforced.
“Overusing plastic in direct contact with food transfers unhealthy chemicals to the food.” He pointed to the waste and environmental damage created by these products and underscored the dangers to livestock, birds and marine life when they ingest plastic litter.
The JFDA sent draft regulations for review and comment to the chambers of industry and commerce, and the Bakery Owners Association. Apparently all have expressed willingness to cooperate. Environmental researcher Batir Wardam told The Jordan Times,“Plastic bags do not dissolve [and] therefore cause permanent pollution.”
The bags also emit toxic fumes when burnt. Describing the JFDA move as “a positive step”, Wardam raised the importance of awareness campaigns and incentives in promoting the scheme.
The plan doesn’t address how to put a leash on the plastic-generating-prowess of Jordan’s souks and small businesses – the source of many of the ubiquitous black shopping bags that line the kingdom’s streets and flutter in its trees.
The ban is a positive first step, but one that needs to be partnered with a robust anti-littering campaign and program of municipal recycling; neither currently exists in the litter-strewn kingdom.
Many of Jordan’s neighbors have already commenced bans on the free issue of plastics.
Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE ban plastics too
Qatar was the first country in the region to prohibit the use of plastics to serve hot food, and they also introduced a charging scheme for disposable plastic bags. Kuwait aims to be a zero-plastic nation by the year 2020, developing new types of bags for bakery products, groceries, plastic dry cleaning bags and plastic sheeting used in construction and agriculture.
Effective last January, the UAE banned non-oxo-biodegradable shopping bags as a first step, to be followed by 15 additional items and gradually extending to all other disposable items. Earlier this summer, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a proposal to ban free distribution of plastic bags. Want a plastic sack? You’ll have to pay. It’s a tiny inconvenience that’s proven to change our behavior.
In March of 2002, Republic of Ireland became the first country to introduce a plastic bag fee, or PlasTax. Designed to rein in rampant consumption of 1.2 billion plastic shopping bags per year, the tax resulted in a 90% drop in usage – approximately 1 billion fewer bags were consumed in the first year. And those pennies charged to people who forgot their reusable market bags? Approximately $9.6 million was raised from the tax in the first year, funding additional environmental projects throughout Ireland.
In Jordan, more than three billion plastic bags are used annually, which translates into every person using 584 bags a year – almost 2 bags per day! According to official estimates, more than 30 million bags a year are littered across the country.
Real change occurs when popular use of non-recyclable plastics becomes socially unacceptable.
Image of trash-eating cow from Shutterstock