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UNESCO launches campaign against plastic bags

The UNESCO Amman Office on Sunday launched a campaign in partnership with several supermarkets to combat the excessive use of plastic bags in the Kingdom.

The aim of the campaign is to reduce the use of plastic bags by major supermarkets in Jordan and to empower consumers to say “Balash Kees” and embark on the path of less dependence on plastic bags, according to a UNESCO statement.

"The production, uncontrolled distribution and littering of plastic bags is a severe environmental problem in Jordan, and unless habits and behaviour are changed its negative impact on the environment and socio-economic factors will worsen," UNESCO said.

Plastic bags are made of polythelene, derived from petrol and take 1,000 years to decompose — this means that for the production of plastic bags a scarce natural resource is being diverted from our current needs to produce a non-biodegradable material that is essentially an environmental, economic and health hazard, the statement added.

In Jordan more than three billion bags are used each year, according to estimates of the Ministry of Environment, which means that each person uses 1.6 bags per day and 584 bags a year.

In addition to the environmental impact of the current usage patterns of plastic bags there are several significant repercussions, such as the visual pollution across the country, where swathes of land and nature are covered in plastic, UNESCO said.

According to official estimates more than 30 million bags a year are littered across the country.

Littering of plastic bags also affects tourism negatively, the statement said, citing a survey conducted for the environment ministry which indicated that 30 per cent of tourists complain that tourist sites in Jordan are not very clean.

This has an adverse impact on a sector that contributed 12.4 per cent to the gross domestic product in 2010 and is a major pillar of the economy, UNESCO noted.

Littering of plastic bags also affects agricultural productivity and reduces the quality of livestock by contaminating important nutrients naturally occurring in the soil with dangerous toxins released by plastic.

Every year 2.5 per cent of Jordan’s 2.5 million sheep suffer weight loss or mortality due to blockage of the digestive system as result of eating plastic bags, according to the statement.

In the absence of fees on plastic bags, which have proven to be the most successful measure to reduce the use of plastic in many countries, the campaign seeks to encourage consumers to use fewer plastic bags when shopping by putting more things in each bag, using reusable bags, or simply saying “balash kees” if a bag is not essential.

The campaign will be featured on seven supporting radio stations — Play 99.6, Sunny 105.1, FANN FM, Rotana, Sawt Al Ghad FM, Radio Al Balad and Ayyam FM — YouTube, Facebook (www.facebook.com/balashkees) and Twitter and in the participating supermarkets: Carrefour, Cozmo, Al Ahlia Plaza Superstores, Safeway and Spinneys.

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