30.09.2012 - UNESCO Office in Amman

UNESCO campaign to combat use of plastic bags in Jordan

Danglers with this design are currently raising awareness in major supermarkets in Jordan

Amman, 30 September 2012 – UNESCO has successfully launched one month awareness raising campaign called “Balash Kees - No need for a plastic bag” to combat the excessive use and littering of plastic bags in Jordan. The overall objective of this campaign is to reduce the use of plastic bags at major supermarkets in Jordan through increased consumer awareness and environmentally friendlier packing policies. The campaign was rolled out on September 16 and is being featured on radio, social media and in the stores of five supermarket chains in Jordan. So far the campaign received excellent responses from the public and more than 10,000 people have joined the campaign on Facebook and are engaging in debates around this important environmental issue.

Littering and excessive use of plastic bags is one of Jordan’s most visible environmental problems. According to estimates of the Ministry of Environment, in Jordan more than 3 billion bags are used per year. Plastic bags are made of polyethylene, derived from petrol and take 1,000 years to decompose. The production and littering of plastic bags are therefore not only a hazard for the environment but have also significant repercussions on tourism and agriculture, both important pillars of Jordan’s economy. Unfortunately littered plastic bags are a common sight in Jordan and 30% of tourists complain that tourist sites are not very clean. Littering also affects agricultural productivity and reduces the quality of livestock in fact in Jordan every year an estimated 60,000 sheep are suffering weight loss or mortality due to blockage of the digestive system as a result of eating littered plastic bags.

In Jordan plastic bags are distributed free of charge at every corner store, the rapidly growing number of shopping malls and chain supermarkets. The latter have a particularly high output of plastic bags but at the same time can play an important role in curbing their use. Currently, due to an unfortunate mix of established practices and consumer expectations, packers at supermarkets do not pack environmentally using far more bags than needed. Moreover, the reusing of bags and/or reusable bags are not popular practices. In the absence of fees on plastic bags, which have proven to be the a successful measure to reduce the use of plastic in many countries, the “Balash Kees” campaign is tackling this problem by raising awareness among the public and supermarkets as necessary initial steps aimed at curbing the excessive use of plastic bags and by encouraging supermarkets to revise their packing practices and promote alternative practices. Currently trainings on environmental friendly grocery packing are being held by 7iberINC at participating supermarkets.

Awareness of about campaign is being promoted on seven radio stations (Play 99.6, Sunny 105.1, FANN FM, Rotana, Sawt Al Ghad FM, Radio Al Balad and Ayyam FM), a Facebook Fan Page (www.facebook.com/balashkees) and Twitter @UNESCOJordan. Participating supermarkets who have endorsed the campaign include Carrefour, Cozmo, Alahlia Plaza Superstores, Safeway and Spinneys. Moreover, building on the popular Jordanian cartoon character “Aawad Abu Shiffeh” the problem of plastic bags in Jordan is being highlighted through a satiric but informal cartoon.

The campaign is under the patronage of the Ministry of Environment and supported by Umniah and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.

For more information on the event contact: p.mazza@unesco.org

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