Environment rights organisations on Thursday urged the government to reconsider the proposed tax withdrawal on all types of polythene bags and impose a higher tax on single-use plastic products.
The Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, while placing the 2022-23 national budget, has proposed withdrawing the existing 5.0 per cent supplementary duty on all types of polythene and plastic bags.
The proposal, includes the withdrawal of duty on oven plastic bags and wrapping materials made of polyethene.
Environment experts came up with the demand at a press conference organised by Environment and Social Development Organization-ESDO in Dhaka on Thursday.
ESDO has filed a petition to the Finance Minister seeking reconsideration of the proposed supplementary duty on plastic bags and imposition of higher taxes on disposable plastic products.
“Government should reconsider the decision of the existing supplementary duty withdrawal on all types of polythene bags'' said Syed Marghub Murshed, former secretary of the government and Chairperson of ESDO.
Regarding the recent budget proposal, ESDO published a statement which focused on the writ petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association on behalf of ESDO where the High Court ordered the concerned authorities to prepare the ground for banning single-use plastics in coastal areas.
Following the High Court's order, the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change later issued a gazette instructing all concerned to completely stop the use of single-use plastic products.
The products included--single-use plastic plates, glasses, cups and cutleries, straws, Styrofoam food packaging, coffee stirrers, lollipop cover sachet, cigarette filter, cotton buds, non-recyclable and non-biodegradable (multilayer packaging) products from 12 exposed coastal districts of Bangladesh by 2023.
The ESDO statement also highlights the historic resolution to End Plastic Pollution and builds an international legally enforceable agreement by 2024 at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) where 175 nations including Bangladesh supported the agreement.
Dr Shahriar Hossain, secretary general of ESDO said that it is high time we take necessary steps from our side to beat the plastic pollution just like India and Canada did.
“Bangladesh along with other South Asian countries should work alongside India to reduce plastic pollution from this region. For starters, Higher taxes need to be imposed on single-use plastic products to decrease its usage”, he added.
"If it is accepted (tax withdrawal), it will welcome single-use plastic and will definitely go wrong for our environment," said Siddika Sultana, executive director of the Environment and Social Development Organization.
Since the neighbouring country India is banning the production and sale of single use plastic products, there is a fear of increasing cross-border illicit trade and Bangladesh will become a plastic hub, she added.