ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has announced it will prohibit the use of plastic bags in bakeries and bread shops due to reported health risks associated with storing bread products in them.
“Due to the increased risk of cancer, our request to restrict the use of plastic bags to the KRG Council of Ministers was accepted,” said Halo Askary, Head of Kurdistan Region’s Board for the Protection of the Environment, to local media.
He explained the cabinet “approved the decision of using paper bags instead of plastic ones, which are now used all over the Kurdistan Region.”
Despite the devastating effects of non-biodegradable plastic bags on the environment, he said, “studies indicate that using them increases the risk of cancer because they are made with petroleum products that become toxic over time.”
Health officials have warned that storing warm bread in plastic bags can lead to its chemical compounds leaching into the food, potentially causing health problems including cancer.
Askary added that the official approval had been sent to the Ministry of Interior (police) to “generalize the decision” and implement it all over region's four provinces.
According to official figures released by the KRG, 700 to 750 tons of plastic material are thrown away on a daily basis in the Kurdistan Region. In Erbil alone, 200 to 250 tons of plastic is thrown away, only 10 percent of which is recycled. A significant portion of unrecycled trash is made up of discarded plastic bags.
One week before the Council of Ministers' decision, the mayor of Sulamiani announced a new program to separate recyclable materials from non-reusable garbage. On the following day, officials from Erbil did the same.
“In the beginning, the initiative will include the hotels, restaurants, and cafes as the owners have already been notified that they should separate glass and plastic from the trash,” Shakur Aziz, deputy head of the government office that oversees restaurants and hotels in Erbil, told Kurdistan 24,
“The aim is to reuse the materials that don’t break down in the environment. Anyone who doesn't follow the rules will find that their waste will not be collected, which should eventually force them to comply with the decision.”
In recent years several local organizations in the Kurdistan Region have launched a campaign to encourage recycling by placing separate garbage bins in schools and universities as a first step and later expanding it to other locations.
Editing by John J. Catherine