Plastic ban without substitute is a challenge: Agriculture Minister

Plastic ban without substitute is a challenge: Agriculture Minister

The National Environment Commission (NEC) is studying to find the right substitutes for plastics to implement the plastic ban, said Chairperson of NEC and Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor during the Friday meet yesterday.

Despite the plastic ban from April 1 this year, it was found that consumers and businesses still practice the use of plastics.

According to NEC, the ban would not allow the sale of plastic carry bags and betel nut (doma) wrappers.

The ban is reinforcement of the earlier 1999 ban and is applicable to business establishments and not on consumers, who reuse and carry their own plastic bags. Those using plastics are liable to pay Nu 500 as penalty for first time and double if found using the second time.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said there is always a challenge when policies are framed for the common good of citizens.

He also added that although the government implemented plastic ban in accordance to the law, it has been a historical failure.

“To ban plastics without substitute is a challenge and the problem will continue for some time as NEC is doing all necessary study to find the right substitute until then, the ban will not be so effective,” said Agriculture Minister.

Prime Minister (PM) Dr. Lotay Tshering said the initiative should be a collective effort.

“It is not only the responsibility of NEC to get Bhutan free of plastic waste but we should work together,” he added.

PM also said there has been lapses in implementation but it does not mean plastic bags are allowed but enforcement is taken not very strictly because there is requirement of better alternatives.

In addition, he said we do not want plastic waste in the long run. “We are assured to work on strategizing the ban.”

PM shared that the NEC and government is working on the waste management flagship program and for that to work everybody needs to work together. 

“NEC’s doing is legally correct and just imposing the ban will not work as the mindset of the people needs to change and we to have adequate alternatives in place,” said PM

“Once we have the alternatives in place, then we can make it a call,” he added.

According to the State of the Nation report 2019, the government commits to address the mounting problem of waste and mitigate its impact on environment and public health.

In the coming years, government plans to distribute three-colored bins to every household and institution across the country through the Waste Management Flagship.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu