Severe Punishment for Non-biodegradable Lunch Sheet Manufacturers

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 6 2021

The repercussions of the disposal of polythene lunch sheets on the environment was most definitely the primary reason for the ban imposed on the production of non-biodegradable polythene lunch sheets, but this has not been completely acknowledged by producers who are ignorant towards the purpose for such ban and continue their productions with the sole motive to profit at the cost of destroying the environment.

Approximately 106 tonnes have been used annually in the country and according to the Ministry of Environment, Sri Lanka is the only country that had not moved from the use of lunch sheets. It has been scientifically proven that the micro-plastic particles that accumulate in the soil due to lunch sheets last for more than 200 years.

In consideration of the estimated number of lunch sheets discarded and released daily to the environment that exceeds at least 10 million, Gazette Notification No. 2034/34, as of 1 September 2017 was issued by which the manufacture, trade and use of polythene lunch sheets was banned while by Gazette Notification No. 2034/35, grocery bags made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) were prohibited from being produced and sold. 

This decision was welcomed by several environmentalists as this would, up to a certain extent, set a good precedent for environment conservation and if implemented properly, would solve the innumerable negative impacts on the environment.

The recent raids carried out by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) along with Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) and Police on illegal lunch sheet production with the latest conducted in several areas of the Homagama Divisional Secretariat Division where over 5,100 kg (5.1 tonnes) of illegally manufactured lunch sheet rolls were seized makes it evident that the ban has not been taken seriously by certain producers.

Although authorities are constantly on alert of those who illegally produce lunch sheets and other plastic items that have been banned, it is primarily the responsibility of companies to ensure that they adhere to policies adopted to minimise the impact on the environment as there are already sufficient obstacles faced in conserving the environment, both man-made and natural.

Whilst initially steps were taken to only produce lunch sheets with biodegradable material, companies without doing so, are continuing to produce banned polythene lunch sheets and such illegally produced lunch sheets are still also being circulated amongst shops and households.

The Matara District Office of the Central Environmental Authority, along with the Consumer Affairs Authority and Special Task Force (STF) in the most recent raid conducted in the Akuressa Town seized 480 kilograms of lunch sheets which had been manufactured illegally and they had also been distributed to shops at the value of Rs 170,000. 

While the State authorities are attempting to uphold their responsibilities as vested by Article 27(14) of  the Constitution according to which the State shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community, certain manufacturers have most evidently not supported the State in doing so, Article 28 (f) of the Constitution lays down that the citizens also have a duty to protect nature and conserve its riches.

With the imposition of the ban on polythene lunch sheets, there was a reasonable concern as to the impact on producers who depended on the production of polythene lunch sheets, this is however  an irrelevant argument as a one-month grace period was provided for the selling of lunch sheets so produced.

The Minister of Environment, following the ban imposed assured that if factories attempt to mislead the public by producing non-perishable lunch sheets, their production licences will be suspended while the clearance for the production of biodegradable lunch sheets will be granted exclusively to CEA-registered institutions.

As repeatedly emphasised by authorities, the decision can never be implemented by the Government alone and it needs the support of all sections of the country, including the public and that if anyone manufactures, distributes or sells lunch sheets made of polythene, the fine will be increased tenfold and all equipment used for this purpose will be confiscated.

Thereby it is crucial that companies extend their support to the authorities and avoid production of hazardous polythene and plastic products that have been banned for a specific crucial purpose. 

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Dec 6 2021

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