Environmentalists argue for total ban on plastic granules import as Bangladesh banned polythene bags in 2002
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has requested the National Board of Revenue to raise import duty on plastic granules in a bid to facilitate the use of eco-friendly bags.
A standing committee meeting of the ministry previously advocated for effective steps to check production, marketing and use of polybags.
However, the standing committee at its latest meeting recommended imposing eco-tax on polybag marketing.
The meeting also reiterated its stance on raising the import duty of polybag raw material.
An ecotax, or ecological taxation, is a tax levied on activities which are considered harmful to the environment. It intends to promote environment-friendly activities via economic incentives.
The National Board of Revenue said it has received the letter from the ministry. Revenue Board sources said the board is working on it.
However, greens are critical of the request to the revenue board and term it a "mere eyewash".
Shahriar Hossen, secretary general of the Environment and Social Development Organisation, said, "If the government is sincere about the ban on polybags, it would have prohibited the import of polythene raw materials."
Mahmud Hasan, additional secretary to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said, "Imposing more import duty is not enough. We need to stop importing plastic granule to eliminate polybag use."
However, he told The Business Standard that they need more time for slapping the total import ban.
Once heralded as a cheap and convenient way to carry groceries, polybags earned a reputation among the people. But the thin bags faced a backlash as those were found to have choked the drainage system during devastating floods.
In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban thinner plastic bags.
The government then encouraged bio-degradable polythene and eco-friendly bags as alternatives for carrying groceries.
After 2006, polybag started regaining its regime riding on cheap making cost and fair availability of the raw material.
The Department of Environment often conducts raid against the manufacturing and sale of the bags.
One-time plastics or single-use plastics have also become one of the major concerns of environmental activists.
The country produces 87,000 tonnes of plastic wastes per year, which eventually make their way into lakes, rivers and the sea.
Like polythene-made thin bags, those plastics are not bio-degradable. The items like a food wrapper, cotton buds, one-time plates and glasses, and other plastic bottles avoid decomposition by bacteria or other living organisms, and thereby contaminate the eco-system.