MANUFACTURING, storing and selling high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic bags and rope has been banned in Yangon by the Yangon City Development Committee, according reports in state media last week.
A report on April 25 in Kyay Hmon newspaper said YCDC had informed manufacturers that production of HDPE plastic bags and rope must stop on April 21, and had given notice to retailers that April 22 was the deadline to stop manufacturing, storing and selling such goods.
The report also warned that anyone who ignored the ban would have their business licence annulled.
Manufacturers of HDPE plastic bags said they were preparing to change their production practices.
A manufacturer in Thingangyun township said YCDC officials had told them on April 26 that their licence to produce HDPE bags would not be renewed, but they would be allowed to make low-density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic bags, which biodegrade more quickly than HDPE material.
He said his licence to produce HDPE plastic bags had been renewed annually until October 2009, when the Yangon Division Peace and Development Council announced that businesses would be banned from manufacturing, importing, trading or distributing HDPE plastic bags from December 1 of that year.
After that the licence was renewed every six months, until now.
“So we are now preparing to produce LDPE plastic bags. We need to make changes in machinery and raw material. And the raw material to produce LDPE is more expensive than raw material for HDPE,” the manufacturer said.
“Because LDPE production will cost more than HDPE, some small factory owners are thinking of quitting. If their businesses stop, the employees will need new jobs.”
He added that although LDPE biodegrades more quickly HDPE, it still lasts a long time.
“So the important thing is to institute a recycling system to control the environmental impact of plastic bags,” he said.
He said that last year some manufacturers set up machinery that can turn HDPE bags into plastic planks that can be used in construction.
“The best way to control the impact of plastic bags is to recycle,” he reiterated.
Another plastic manufacturer from Dagon Seikkan township said that in addition to controlling the use of HDPE plastic bags, “systematic” waste disposal was also necessary to reduce the negative impacts of trash, such as the blockage of drains in the city.
“LDPE plastic bags should also be disposed of in a systematic way. Other materials used in the packaging of consumer goods can also impact the environment,” he said.
Daw Davi Thant Cin, chief editor of Aung Pin Lae environmental magazine, said she supports the ban on HDPE bags but added that the use of plastic could not be expected to disappear overnight.
“We can’t just stop using plastic in our daily lives. I agree that we need to control environmental pollution, but it’s not acceptable to announce a ban on plastic today and then expect to take action on it tomorrow,” she said.
“Vendors and consumers should participate in environmental activities by thinking about how they use plastic. Shops give customers plastic bags even when they just buy a hair clip and one card of pills. It’s a waste of money for the shop. People should change their behaviour.”
Plastic bags have been produced in Myanmar for more than 20 years. Since 2009 manufacturers have been required to stamp the words “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” on all plastic bags.
The move to ban LDPE plastic bags in Yangon comes two years after authorities in Mandalay successfully prohibited polythene bags to protect the environment.