With the excess use and littering of plastic bags in Jordan, the UNESCO Amman Office devised an awareness raising campaign “Balash Kees” (“No need for a plastic bag”) to combat this issue. The campaign aimed to reduce the use of plastic bags at major supermarkets in Jordan through introducing environmentally friendlier packing policies and increasing consumer awareness of the issue.
The campaign was rolled out in September 2012 through a mix of radio, social media and in-store activities. Within a week, the campaign engaged more than 10,000 people on Facebook and prompted debates around this central issue.
Littering and excessive use of plastic bags is one of Jordan’s most visible environmental problems. According to estimates made by the Ministry of Environment, more than 3 billion bags are used in Jordan 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 hazardous for the environment, but also create significant repercussions on Jordan’s tourism and agriculture industries, both important pillars of the country’s economy. 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. Every year, an estimated 60,000 sheep in Jordan suffer from 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, supermarket and shopping mall. Currently, due to a lack of consumer awareness and unsustainable packing practices, supermarkets use far more bags than needed. The reusing of bags and/or the use of reusable bags are not popular practices among consumers. The “Balash Kees” campaign is raising awareness to curb the excessive use of plastic bags by encouraging supermarkets to revise their packing practices, provide relevant training and promote the use of reusable bags to consumers.
Following the success of this pilot project, the UNESCO Amman Office is seeking funds to further expand and renew this initiative to better combat the excessive use of plastic bags in Jordan.