QF experts applaud single-use plastic ban in Qatar

/Exclusive: Alraed News/

Qatar Foundation (QF) demonstrates, promotes, enables, and drives sustainability in all its forms. Through its own entities, initiatives, and ethos, and in its role as a unifier for the sustainability-focused efforts of organisations and individuals across the nation, QF is a leader of sustainable development in Qatar.

The importance and the enduring value of sustainability runs through each of QF’s core mission areas: educational ecosystem, community development and RDI.

Dr. Richard O’Kennedy, Vice President for Research, Hamad Bin Khalifa University

The removal of non-biodegradable plastic is highly welcomed and many countries (such as Ireland) have prohibited the use of plastic bags for shopping, with individuals responsible for providing their own bags which are re-usable. Everyone needs to take an active role in minimising the use of non-biodegradable plastics. These plastics have very negative environmental effects that are long-term. They are major global land and ocean pollutants, enter the food chain, and may cause significant health problems in the future. 

Individuals are now aware of multiple issues related to sustainability and the environment and society, and they must take an active personal role in combating the challenges. These include minimising waste, maximising recycling and re-use, and challenging current practices where sustainability is not adequately addressed.

Ouassim Alami, Strategic Initiatives Advisor, COO Office, Qatar Foundation

Single-use plastic bags have become harmful due to human misuse: taking more bags than necessary when shopping, not reusing them whenever possible and throwing them away in the nature has indeed created physical and visual pollution we witness daily in the sea, in the desert and inside the city. Banning them will educate businesses and consumers to cater for their needs, choose reusable bags and always opt for greener solutions.  

A more sustainable society requires a more enabling and empowering environment. Cities must be equipped with the right means, services, and regulations for community members to understand the active role they are expected to play. The single-use plastic bag ban is a good first step. Now it must be expanded to products packaging and encouraging local companies and importers to privilege plastic-free goods, plastic bottles and prioritising import and production of biodegradable alternatives, plastic goods and making sure there are strict guideline about the kind of plastics allowed to be imported… the journey is long against plastic pollution, but it can be won when tackled step by step.

Ruba Hinnawi, Technical Lead, Earthna Center for a Sustainable Future

It became a well- known fact for each one of us that the world is not designed to digest plastic. Plastic, if not disposed responsibly, finds its ways into natural environments where it can stay intact for decades or can break up into tiny pieces, microplastics, that will pollute land and water bodies and reach the food chain. Plastic bags are big part of the excess use of plastics problem specially when we know that they are hard and costly to recycle! Not to mention that they are made from polyethylene which is extracted from natural gas and oil (non- renewable resource). 

The estimated average of carbon footprint is about 6kg of CO2 per kg of plastic which in other words means 1 kg of CO2 per five plastic bags. We are guilty! Big black bin liners, plastic shopping bags, clear sandwich bags, cling films, etc. The availability, convenience, lightweight of the product makes it so popular and overused. 

Therefore, when governments bypass laws that ban or mandate tax on usage that means less consumption which leads to more responsible customer consumption and behavioural change. This makes a huge difference to the environment pollution problem. It is a step towards protecting our ecosystems and biodiversity from pollution and builds a sustainably conscious community.

Dr. Tareq Al Ansari, Associate Professor and Head of Engineering Management and Decision Sciences, College of Science and Engineering, Hamad Bin Khalifa University

The plastic bag ban is a promising step taken by the government to further safeguard the environment. Environmental benefits can be realised through the reduction in environmentally harmful emissions associated with its manufacture that contribute to air pollution and global warming. 

Furthermore, land and water pollution will be reduced as it has been reported that 87% of plastic waste ends in these ecosystems, which takes hundreds of years for its degradation, whereas its average use is only for 12 minutes. Air pollution is also reduced as the need for the incineration of plastic waste as an end of life option is avoided.

Dr. Khaled A Mahmoud, Senior Scientist, QEERI

Qatar generates over 2.5 million tonnes of municipal solid waste annually. This positions Qatar among the highest per capita waste generators (1.8kg per day). The solid waste stream is comprised of around 40% recyclable waste stream including glass, paper, metals, and plastics. Most of this waste ends up in landfills. 

The single-use plastic bag for example takes at least 10 to 20 years to decompose in landfills, some plastic products even can take over 1000 years to break, according to US National Park Services. Highly toxic substances and environmentally hazardous contamination such as microplastics, methane, and carbon dioxide gases are leaching into the soil when plastic products start decomposing under sunlight in landfills.  Also, the incineration of plastic releases toxic and carcinogenic compounds into the ambient air. 

Research studies have proven that heating or packaging food in plastic bags may contaminate food with toxic chemicals such as Bisphenol-A (BPA) which may cause severe health issues such as asthma, obesity, and certain cancers. 

Besides the major threat to marine habitats, plastic bags accumulation is also detrimental to farming by causing dilapidation of the agricultural land and agricultural production. Animals and marine lives may also get tangled and drown in plastic bags, which cause choking, laceration, infection, starvation, reduced reproduction, and mortality.

Dr. Jenny Lawler, Senior Research Director, QEERI

Microplastics is the term given to plastic fragments less than 5 microns in size. For reference, we can see objects down to approximately 40 microns in size, and the diameter of a human hair is approximately 70 microns. When plastic objects such as plastics bags break down in the environment, they will generally break down into microplastics – and eventually into nanoplastics, which are even smaller pieces. So if we can’t see these plastics, are they really a problem? The short answer is that we’re not quite sure. 

Microplastics have been found widely in food and drink already – and we can see that they accumulate in the tissues of fish and in animals which are then taken in by humans. We are already exposed all the time to microplastics in the air we breathe and the water we drink. However, most of the research to date says that microplastics generally just pass straight through the human body. The latest research is indicating that nanoplastics are actually of much more concern – they have been shown to cross the biological barriers in animal studies, including the blood-brain barrier in fish (O’Neill and Lawler, 2021). 

Policy changes in other countries have shown a distinct reduction in the amount of large plastic fragments from plastic bags in the environment, so it is clear that this change is welcome not only from an environmental but also from a human health perspective.

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