Pakistan has introduced legislation which prohibits the import, manufacturing, stockpiling, trade, supply, distribution, sale and use all disposable plastic products that are not oxo-biodegradable.
The legislation - the Prohibition of Non-degradable Plastic Products (Manufacture, Sale and Usage) Regulations 2013 - has outlawed disposable plastic products made wholly or substantially of polyethylene or polypropylene or polystyrene unless they are oxo-biodegradable.
The regulation was announced by the federal minister for Climate Change, and compliance is required in the federal territory as from April 2013.
In a briefing the minister said that the country's Environmental Protection Agency (PAK-EPA) had considered different options to deal with the plastic bag issue, which included a complete ban on plastic bags, the introduction of photo-degradable plastic bags, hydro-soluble plastic bags and oxo-biodegradable plastic bags.
PAK-EPA recommended that oxo-biodegradable technology should be used.
The minister explained that the Ministry of Environment had held meetings with the Plastic Bag Manufacturers Association and with users and exporters and that a consensus had been reached on oxo-biodegradable technology.
"Plastic bags made with this technology if left in open air or water absorb oxygen, which gradually weakens the internal bonds of the plastic material thereby allowing biological degradation to take place. Finally the bag will vanish leaving behind humus (a non-toxic product)," said the minister.
He went on to add that a report by PAK-EPA showed that in 2004 about 55 billion plastic bags were being manufactured and consumed annually in Pakistan and that if current trends continued consumption would reach 112 billion by 2015.
According to the report there are more than 8000 plastic bag factories operating in the country.
The minister noted that 'oxo-biodegradable technology is simple and needs no alteration in machinery or in the manufacturing process. A small quantity of olefin-based additive is mixed with the raw material (granules) to develop biodegradable properties in plastic.'
"PAK-EPA has approached local and multinational companies and users to promote oxo-biodegradable plastic bags, and the Lahore and Karachi Chamber of Commerce held workshops on biodegradable plastics to create awareness among entrepreneurs," said the minister.
"Because of these efforts, a number of users like; Dawn Bread, KFC, McDonalds, Hyper Star, Sazgar, DHA, ICI Polyester, MENUE etc. have started using oxo-biodegradable plastic bags as part of their social responsibility," he concluded.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association has welcomed the move and congratulated the Pakistani government on the move.
Hertfordshire based advanced plastic technologies specialist, Symphony Environmental Technologies also gave the legislation the thumbs up and said that it is an important step in protecting the country's environment.
However, the company added that while the new law is important for Pakistan, it has much wider implications and prohibits not only the manufacture of conventional disposable plastic products in Pakistan, but also prevents them being imported into Pakistan.
This means that all companies anywhere in the world exporting disposable plastic products to Pakistan made from or packaged in conventional or bio-based PE, or PP, or in PS must make and/or package them in future with oxo-biodegradable plastic technology from a supplier registered with the Pakistan Government.
Symphony said that it is bringing this to the urgent attention of its distributors, which serve more than 90 countries around the world.
Michael Laurier, CEO of Symphony commented: "We are anticipating substantially increased demand for our oxo-biodegradable additive, d2w, following the new legislation."
The company has also shipped a d2detector - which can tell within 60 seconds whether a plastic product is oxo-biodegradable and which additives it contains - to Pakistan for use in enforcing the legislation.
A time lapse video explaining biodegradation process of oxo-biodegradable plastics can be seen below.
UAE Ban Opens Market to Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics Firm
Concerned by the prospect of plastic pollution accumulating in the deserts and the sea, the United Arab Emirates has brought forward its policy to ban all disposable plastic products except those made from oxo-biodegradable plastic.
German municipal waste management company Berliner Stadtreinigung (BSR) and chemical giant, BASF have concluded a pilot project involving the use of organic waste bags made of the biodegradable plastic Ecovio FS.
The global market for Biodegradable Polymers is forecast to reach 2.44 billion pounds (1.1 million tones) by the year 2017, according to a report from market research firm Global Industry Analysts.