How does the Middle East fare when it comes to single-use plastic bags?

Abu Dhabi's legislation prohibiting single-use bags came into force on Wednesday

An Egyptian baker waits for customers with plastic bags of bread in Cairo. Reuters
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Abu Dhabi's ban on single-use plastic bags came into force on Wednesday, with new laws in Dubai due to take effect next month.

Supermarkets around the emirates have prepared for the change by placing notices around the checkout tills about the new rule for shoppers to see while also stocking up on multi-use bags for life.

Elsewhere, countries in the region have been making their own attempts at limiting single-use plastic.

But how do other countries in the region compare when it comes to outlawing the single-use carrier bag?

School children help in distributing Fabric bags in a super market during the UN launching of an awarness campaign to replace the flimsy disposable grocery-store-style plastic bags with fabric ones, in Amman, Jordan on June 03, 2010. (Salah Malkawi for The National)

Saudi Arabia: In 2017, the Saudi authorities recommended that single-use plastic bags be replaced with oxo-biodegradable plastic bags.

Bahrain: Last month, state media announced that from mid-September, Bahrain would start banning the import, distribution and sale of single-use, lightweight plastic bags.

Lebanon: In 2018, The Lebanese municipality of coastal city Jbeil announced the banning of plastic bags. One year later in 2019, Environment Minister Fadi Jreissati announced that, starting in October, single-use plastic bags would cost LL100 ($0.07) at many large supermarkets in an attempt to phase them out.

Egypt: In April 2022, a member of the House of Representatives submitted a proposal regarding banning the use of plastic bags and replacing them with more environmentally friendly materials. The debate over the ban is continuing.

Morocco: In July 2016, a law commonly known as the Zero Mika Law banned the production, import, sale or distribution of single-use plastic bags in Morocco. Efforts were put into action to formalise this ban, but some of the approaches adopted had limited effects.

In 2019, the law was amended to define the legal framework for inspections and seizures.

Jordan: In June 2015, the Jordan Food and Drug Administration (JFDA) planned to ban the use of recycled plastic bags and containers used in direct contact with food items, and in 2017 the biodegradable plastic bag law laid out rules that all plastic bags must be biodegradable except for heavy duty ones designed for multiple use.

Qatar: Qatar’s Cabinet approved a draft decision in May 2022, which would ban the use of single-use plastic bags in the country, to be replaced with multi-use plastic bags, biodegradable plastic bags, paper or woven bags and other biodegradable materials.

Israel: The Plastic Bag Law took hold in January 2017, which prohibited large supermarkets from distributing plastic bags free of charge. Instead consumers have to pay NIS 0.10 ($0.03) for plastic bags. One year later local media reported a nearly 80 per cent drop in plastic bag use since the ban took effect. But it was not until 2020 that authorities approved regulations that enabled inspectors to fine those breaking the rules.

Environmental activists in Lebanon send a message that pollutants such as bottles and plastic bags are a danger marine animals. AP Photo

Oman: Oman’s Environment Authority introduced a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags on January 1, 2021. People breaching the ban are fined a minimum of RO100 ($259) and maximum of RO2,000 ($5,180), which is doubled every time the same organisation or person is found guilty of breaking the rule. The single-use bags were replaced with thicker 50-micron bags, which are now provided free at most shops.

Kuwait: There are no restrictions on single-use plastic bags despite attempts by supermarkets to promote reusable bags. However, The Kuwaiti Ministry of Communications announced a policy to ban the use of certain single-use plastic items on board Kuwaiti and foreign ships while in port in Kuwait or in Kuwaiti waters.

Tunisia: A ban on plastic bags took effect in Tunisia’s large supermarket chains in March 2017 as part of the government’s efforts to cut down on waste and pollution. The regulation prohibits major supermarket chains, such as Carrefour and Monoprix, distributing non-biodegradable plastic bags. Smaller shops, street food markets or the fruit and vegetable sections of retail stores were not subject to the ban.

In 2020, authorities announced plans to stop its supermarkets and pharmacies from using single-use plastic bags from before phasing them out completely in 2021.

Updated: June 02, 2022, 7:04 AM
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