Banned polythene bags clogging up market

Published : 10:43 am  October 7, 2016 | No comments so far |  |  (590) reads | 


The ban on the manufacture, sale and use of polythene products below 20 microns was brought into effect on January 01, 2016 and strictly enforced from February 01 onwards by the Government. 
Nevertheless, polythene products such as lunch sheets and polythene bags below 20 microns are still available in the market though illegal, as pointed out by polythene manufacturers who have complied with the ban implemented earlier this year. 

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Organizer of the All Ceylon Manufacturers and Recyclers Association Rohitha Ransiri said that polythene manufacturers, who were producing polythene products above 20 microns were currently running their businesses at a loss due to the illegal sales of polythene bags below 20 microns, that continue to prevail in the market. He also pointed out that such polythene products could cause harm to the environment.


According to the Extraordinary Gazette notification No. 1466/5 issued under section 23W of the National Environmental Act No. 47 of 1980, the manufacture of polythene or any polythene product of 20 microns or below in thickness for in-country use and the sale or use of polythene or any polythene product which is 20 microns or below in thickness is prohibited in Sri Lanka. 

The law was not strictly enforced although the regulation was brought into effect on January 01, 2007 when President Maithripala Sirisena was the Minister of Environment. Therefore, the regulation was brought into effect again on January 01, 2016 and strictly enforced since February 01, 2016.  The ban was imposed to reduce the indiscriminate use of polythene products while ensuring that the environment will be safeguarded from getting polluted. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority  Lal Mervin Dharmasiri said that the CEA had done everything within its capacity to ensure that polythene products below 20 microns would not be manufactured or sold to customers. 

“We have conducted numerous raids against manufacturers and vendors of polythene products below 20 microns,” he said. 

Supporting his comment, Director of Waste Management at CEA Ajith Wijesundara said that the CEA had conducted approximately five hundred raids since the ban was implemented earlier this year. 
“The majority of polythene manufacturers engaged in the industry are law abiding and work in accordance with the license issued to them by the CEA. Nevertheless, there are few manufacturers who are illegally engaged in this racket as a home based business. “Very often when we conduct raids, we do not come across the banned polythene products. However, once the raid is over, these products are again available in the market,” he said. 

He added that the CEA has filed more than forty cases in Court against shops that have being engaged in the illegal manufacturing or selling of polythene products that were below twenty microns. 
Accordingly, all polythene manufactures and sellers are required to abide by the law; in an attempt to minimise the risk of pollution that could be caused to the environment through the extensive use of polythene.

“The polythene products manufactured by us are above 20 microns and are in compliance with local regulations governing the polythene manufacturing industry in Sri Lanka. However, we cannot continue to run our polythene business as law abiding citizens because manufacturers of polythene that is below 20 microns, are competing with our business in the market. Since their cost of production is lower, retailers and consumers alike, tend to purchase their products, while our polythene products such as polythene bags and lunch sheets continue to remain in store shelves. 
“This is mainly because our products are slightly higher in cost owing to their high quality standards unlike the polythene products that are below 20 microns,” Mr. Ransiri said.

Stating that the Central Environment Authority (CEA) issues a licence to a polythene manufacturer registered with the CEA, Ransiri said that the licence was issued only after inspecting the factory settings of a polythene manufacturer. 

While all polythene manufacturers in Sri Lanka had to work in compliance with the license issued to them, he said that it was disappointing to watch how some manufacturers were not abiding by these rules. 

He said that the complaining in this regard has fallen on the deaf ears of the CEA since no effective action has being taken by the authority to address the issue to date.

“The law is not being implemented properly. If the CEA had conducted raids in an effective manner, this situation wouldn’t have prevailed today. Manufacturers of polythene less than 20 microns are at times tipped off by someone before CEA officers visit their places to conduct the raid. So, they are well equipped on how to handle the situation shrewdly. 

Very often these polythene products are sent to the Pettah market although never put on store shelves for display. Retailers hide the stock of polythene below 20 microns.

“When a customer wants to purchase a product, the vendor bills the product; thereafter handing down a receipt to the customer with directions to collect the polythene products from elsewhere. This is an ongoing racket that needs to be brought to the attention of responsible authorities as well as the public.

 “While we encourage people to recycle or reuse their shopping bags, we request the CEA to take effective actions against fraudsters who do not abide by the law” he added.

Pics by Damith Wickramasinghe