Lebanon News

Changing habits: Supermarkets to start charging for single-use plastic bags

A woman poses for a photo with a reusable bag at Fahed supermarket in Beirut, Oct. 1, 2019. (The Daily Star/Mohamad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Environment Minister Fadi Jreissati announced Tuesday that starting Oct. 15, single-use plastic bags will cost LL100 ($0.07) at many large supermarkets. The move seeks to encourage the adoption of reusable bags.“We are providing an alternative to [single-use] plastic bags ... multiuse bags that will be sold for prices that range between LL500 and LL1,500, depending on their size and durability,” Jreissati said at a news conference held at the Environment Ministry.

In recent years, the environmental damage caused by single-use plastic bags has become widely recognized. Supermarket owners present at the conference had been “very cooperative” with the initiative, Jreissati said.

The minister reiterated that the plastic bag scheme was not a tax and “we are not asking people to pay.” Instead, he said, people simply need to remember to take bags with them when they go shopping. He added that the ministry would launch campaigns to distribute multiuse PVC bags for free.

“I understand I’m asking the Lebanese people to change their habits,” Jreissati said, highlighting the fact that most countries in the world have regulated single-use plastic for years.

On Lebanon’s steps toward joining the 127 nations with laws in place to limit plastic use, Jreissati said: “It is shameful that only now we are tackling [this] pressing issue.”

Referring to Lebanon’s current economic situation, Jreissati said that there had been talk about the timing of the campaign. However, he added, “The reality is that we have 280,000 tons of plastic waste in Lebanon, and that is costing us a lot. One ton of plastic waste costs us $125. ... We are paying LL400 billion annually to deal with waste.”

He said landfills had reached capacity, making the task of limiting plastic use all the more urgent.

Single-use plastic bags will still be available at produce markets, small shops and minimarts after the scheme’s initial rollout.

The Environment Ministry will tackle the issue of smaller retailers at a later point.

“This is only a small step and the beginning of our fight against plastic waste,” Jreissati said.

“The responsibility [for the environment] now lies on the shoulders of citizens.”

Economy Minister Mansour Bteich said he would present a draft law on the initiative to Cabinet that would also call for Lebanon’s adherence to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on climate action.

“We want to instill new habits and raise awareness on our responsibility toward the environment,” Bteich said at the news conference.

To demonstrate the level of plastic consumption in Lebanon, Bteich referred to a 2017 study that calculated per capita consumption of plastic bags in Lebanese cities at between 330 and 360 per year.

The plastic bag initiative has been agreed upon by the Environment Ministry and the Syndicate of Supermarket Owners.

Major supermarket chains including Spinneys, Le Charcutier Aoun, Fahed, Carrefour and Metro have signed up.

The ministry also hopes to launch further green initiatives, including campaigns against throwing garbage from vehicles and programs on sorting waste at the source.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 02, 2019, on page 2.

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