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Decline in black plastic use in heritage sites Print E-mail
Posted by Administrator   
Monday, 30 January 2012
By: Sangeet Sangroula

Kathmandu: Saharan Manandhar, a local vendor at the Pashupatinath temple, used to bundle purchases into black polyethylene bags and hand out to his customers. For years visitors bought souvenirs from the 20-year-old’s shop and filled up on plastic bags, posing a serious threat to the environment. However, Manandhar is seeking out environmentally friendly alternatives nowadays.

He has replaced the black plastic bags with white and red disposable ones. The black polyethylene bags, most of which find their way into landfill, can neither be recycled nor reusable. “I have been distributing white and red plastic bags which are thicker than the black ones to the customers for the last two months after the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) banned the use of thinner plastic bags in heritage sites,” he said. In its effort to discourage the use of black polyethylene bags with less than 20 micron thick, which are responsible for various health related hazards and pollution, the KMC since November last year started a black plastic free campaign in major cultural and historical sites, including the Pashupatinath, Bouddhanath and Swoyambhunath temples.  
“Most of the shopkeepers in these areas now hand out white plastic bags to customers after the KMC officials along with representatives of the Pashupati Area Development Trust reached from shops to shops to inform the negative impacts of black plastic bags,” he said. There are other traders to follow suit. Geeta Parajuli (48), another shopkeeper in the Pashupati area, said, “It has been nearly 15 days since I started packing purchases into white polythene bags and hand out to the customers.” Parajuli said he prefers white plastic bags to black ones to make environment clean and healthy by discouraging the use of non-degradable plastics.
“I personally request the customers to bring their own bags like hessian sacks while coming for shopping. This is the best alternative to discourage the use of any kinds of plastics,” Parajuli said.   Bearing testimony to his statements, there has been a gradual improvement in the use of degradable plastic bags. Chief of KMC’s Environment Division Rabin Man Shrestha said the cultural sites like Pashupati area have seen progress as the use of black polythene bags is decreasing. “The change observed in the attitude of shopkeepers in and around the cultural sites is a positive start.  We think we will be persuading the shopkeepers to implement the decision and help keep environment healthy,” he said. According to Shrestha, out of total 360 tonnes of daily waste collected in the Capital, around 36 tonnes are plastics. “Plastics are a serious threat to environment and pose serious health hazards,” Shrestha said. Implementation of the ban on the use of black plastic bags is one of the greatest challenges faced by KMC officials. “It is very hard to change people’s attitude and bring in environment friendly measures,” said Shrestha.    
The Ministry of Environment (MoE) has already formulated the Plastic Bags Regulation and Control Directives 2011 to ban the use of black plastic bags less than 20 microns thick across the country since October last year. The new directive prohibits companies and individuals from producing, importing, storing, selling and using polythene bag less than 20 microns.

Source: The Kathmandu Post, January 29, 2012
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