As Qatar’s plastic ban journey continues to unfold, it is clear that stronger communication and public awareness campaigns are needed.
When Qatar’s Ministry of Municipality announced the comprehensive ban on single-use plastic bags in November last year, it was seen as a bold move towards environmental sustainability in the Middle East.
Eight months into the ban, progress has been made, but challenges still persist.
The ban had compelled institutions, companies and shopping centres to substitute single-use plastic bags with multi-use plastic bags, biodegradable bags, bags made of paper or woven cloth or other approved biodegradable materials. The rule explicitly outlined that these plastic bags must bear a symbol indicating they are degradable, reusable or recyclable.
Larger conglomerates in the countries have seemingly successfully adapted to the new regulation even prior to the announcement. Key players such as LuLu Group, Monoprix and Al Meera all use eco-friendly alternatives, leading the charge towards sustainable consumerism in Qatar.
Discrepancy in reach
The ban’s reach, however, appears to not have fully extended to smaller retailers.
Hassan, the manager of a small supermarket in Al Aziziya, told Doha News that the change has been both more difficult to integrate and seemingly not monitored.
“I don’t know about this, and no one come to see what kind of bag we use for customers. It will be hard for us to get another type of bag because it’s more expensive,” he said.
Another small supermarket manager, Muhammed, echoed Hassan’s sentiments, “It’s hard for me to buy a different type of bag, and I don’t think I need to, maybe this is just for big businesses.”
The accounts suggest a possible communication gap in implementing the ban at the ground level, a hurdle that needs to be surmounted for the ban to be effective across all sectors.
On the other side, some residents like Amal Baker are stepping up as environmental stewards. Baker, who carries her reusable bag whenever she goes grocery shopping, has been a vocal advocate for this eco-conscious practice.
“I don’t understand why people find it so hard to just own a reusable bag,” she told Doha News.
Baker crafted her shopping bag herself and carries it everywhere, underscoring the feasible alternatives to single-use plastics.
Her sentiment extends to a call for individual responsibility, “We shouldn’t wait for the companies or governments to take action for the environment cause if we do we will wait forever for change, we should kickstart this change ourselves.”
Eight months into the ban, the progress made is significant but uneven. While big players are adapting to the new norms, the ban has yet to permeate to the micro-level businesses.
The initiative for change is also brewing among consumers themselves, showcasing a bottom-up approach to sustainable development.
In a region that is rapidly modernising, Qatar’s single-use plastic bag ban is an important precedent for environmental responsibility.
The real challenge, however, lies in ensuring the effective enforcement of these laws, especially among the small-scale retail sector, and promoting a broader culture of sustainability among the public.