Supermarkets will soon be banned from printing their logos on non-biodegradable plastic carrier bags, in a first step towards a complete ban on the bags from 2013. The logo ban, which has been approved by the UAE Cabinet, is expected to come into effect this year. However, the details, including when it would come into force, are still being worked out, according to Hunaida Qayed, the manager of the Ministry of Environment and Water's awareness department. In October, the ministry will start a public education campaign about the environmental harm done by plastic, and the alternatives available. Mrs Qayed said the logo ban would be the first step of a plan by the ministry to phase out all plastic bags. "The campaign will be active for a period of two years until a law is issued at 2013 to regulate the use of plastic bags," she said. About 8,000 tonnes of plastic film - the material used to make bags and wrapping - are produced in the UAE every month. Some retailers welcomed the decision, saying they had already switched away from regular plastic. A year ago, Marks & Spencer began phasing in an alternative known as oxo-biodegradable plastic - which disintegrates in the presence of oxygen. The Lulu Hypermarkets chain introduced biodegradable bags in June. Saifee Rupawala, Lulu's chief executive, said the move would "go a long way" in promoting environmental awareness. "Naturally, we should start somewhere. Each of us is aware of our role in this, and we need to step up and do something," he said. An additive in oxo-biodegradable plastics allows them to break down into materials including water and carbon dioxide in less than a year. Only one company in the UAE, Sharjah-based Eco-Polymers, supplies the additive to produce oxo-biodegradable plastic. A little over a year after the company's UAE launch, oxo-biodegradable bags have replaced regular plastic bags in 10 large supermarkets, with retailers such as Centrepoint, Zara, Debenhams and Home Centre also using the plastic. "Many of the large users of plastic bags have already converted," said Winston Pryce, the general manager of Eco-Polymers. "Some people are refusing to do so because there is a difference in cost." The biodegradable bags are about 15 per cent more expensive than normal plastic. Dr Ulrich Wernery, scientific director of the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Dubai, was also positive about the ban. However, the Government should develop guidelines for the use of alternatives to plastic and ensure that biodegradable plastics do not cause pollution as they degrade, he said. "The problem to me is: what is a biodegradable bag? Will this bag leave any residuals? Did anybody test it independently?" firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
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