Less paper, more plastic
The “Law on Prohibition of Plastic Bag Usage” was adopted in 2009 and it defined “plastic bag” as a bag manufactured by a synthesizing method for package use which cannot be recycled and is very slow to degrade.” The law also stated that “(the) use of all types of plastic bags which are less than 0.025 mm thick or lesser for package use shall be prohibited in any trade and services,” according to Clause 4.1; while under Clause 4.2, “(the) import of the abovementioned plastic bags in Clause 4.1 shall be prohibited.”
In 2009, it was decided to fine citizens who sold plastic bags for package use with 30 to 50 thousand MNT, business entities with 150 thousand MNT, citizens who imported the bags with 100 to 150 thousand MNT, and business entities who imported them with 250 to 300 thousand MNT; and all their bags shall be confiscated.
With the adoption of the law, Mongolia was able to stay away from the enemy of both nature and humankind, the plastic bag, which harms everything. However, the previous government made repealed the law and incorporated its provisions to the Waste Law. This negatively affected the original law’s enforcement, citizens’ obedience, and administrative supervision. Major trade markets have remarkably reduced their order amount of paper bags soon after the introduction of this law and started providing customers with plastic bags that have their names on them. It made the choice of paper bags optional, which promoted the use of plastic bags again whose consequence is nothing more than a threat to environment. The only exception was public service organizations which must use paper bags as an example for the people in fulfillment of their civic duties.
The government started to pay attention to proper bag usage from June 1, 2009 in order to improve the better implementation of the prohibition on plastic bags and support paper bags which are eco-friendly. Back then, the powers-that-be unanimously agreed and persuaded the people by saying via every type of media that, “The citizens are highly advised to set up paper bag factories, even with loans. We will enforce the law that prohibits plastic bag usage strictly and, eventually, paper bag usage will just become a part of our daily life. The State will support this endeavor in every possible way. From today, Mongolia has a great potential to earn profit from paper bag manufacturing.”
Thus, many organizations including Finpack and Mongolian National Federation of the Blind started taking out loans to launch paper bag manufacturing factories here. They spent 50 to 70 million MNT to open the factories which produce paper bags of decent quality. At the time, law enforcement was strict and the paper bags were distributed to all trade and service centers in Mongolia. Over ten paper bag manufacturers operated in 2009 and fully supplied the domestic needs. Citizens also began supporting it by using paper bags.
But once the distinct law on the prohibition of plastic bags became part of another law, businesses and private enterprises preferred the plastic bags to paper bags as they are cheaper with the biggest supermarket chains such as “Nomin” and “Minii Delguur” beginning to use them again which then persuaded others to follow.
Organizations that do price research concluded that the main reason of the increase in plastic bag usage is due to its cost benefit. It cost almost the same to buy a paper bag from domestic manufacturers or import a plastic bag with their own logo, picture, etc. printed on it. Such became a part of the trade service companies’ advertising management strategies.
Most of the companies which launched the paper bag industry went bankrupt with massive loans still waiting to be paid. It is only right to mention that the new officials of the government that is elected every four years discontinue the work that their predecessors initiated and this, as a result, prevents the smooth operation and progress of business entities.
Though one plastic bag costs 100 MNT, the harm of it will cause a loss of 100 million USD. We must immediately eradicate plastic bags which are ruining our future lives as we will no longer have a safe and sound environment with healthy people.
Experts worldwide have found out that the harm brought by paper bags to the environment, the people, and food is 98 percent less than that of plastic bags. That is why since many years ago and for decades now, foreign countries have been using paper bags. However in Mongolia, the government issued a resolution which prohibited plastic bag usage four years ago and yet the trade sector officials and citizens are still both spending their money on this thing that is endangering our future.
Do we really need the involvement of the State to preserve nature and defend our future?
In 2011, a total of 12.5 tons of thin bags and 55.9 million plastic bags were imported to Mongolia. And none of them ever crossed the border again and left Mongolia.
If we add the number of unregistered goods and goods packed with plastic bags, the amount of plastic bags imported to Mongolia will be out of hand. Though the plastic bag is only 0.025 mm thick, it takes over 100 years, more than one century, to be absorbed by the soil. The thicker the bag is, the longer it will take to degrade.
In the meantime, they emit hazardous chemical substances which pollute soil, water, and air. These chemicals lead to illnesses in the liver, abdomen, throat, and pancreas and can cause different types of cancer, according to scientists. The plastic bag is also the main source of bacterial transmission. Over 90 percent of transparently disposed waste is plastic bags which also causes many infectious diseases among the public. The State Specialized Inspection Agency inspectors have actually proven that 80 percent of all the imported plastic bags are actually for waste disposal purposes.
In Mongolia, over a million plastic bags are sold every month and 60 percent of which are imported from China while the remaining 40 percent is manufactured in local factories funded by China. While there are still some ten factories, plastic bag order centers have started quite a lot of operations lately.
Currently, only 50 of over 200 countries in the world use plastic bags as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO is calling for the public to refuse using plastic bags, which is the main source of cancer, infectious diseases, environmental pollution, and many more dangers.
This is the time that we start avoiding the use of plastic bags as 20 percent of the total Mongolian population is already diagnosed with cancer and 35 percent of all youth is suffering from infectious diseases. We have to be aware of what actually harms us and pay attention to it daily. The foremost thing to do is eliminating plastic bags from our everyday use.
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