The authorities in Kyrgyzstan are imposing a ban on the circulation of plastic carrier bags in a location popular with tourists ahead of similar nationwide restrictions planned for 2027.
In addition to prohibiting the use of plastic bags in the Issyk-Kul region, the decree approved by President Sadyr Japarov on August 10 will make it unlawful to bring the polyethylene containers into protected natural areas.
Exceptions are to be made for the packaging of belongings by visitors.
The ban comes into effect from August 25.
More is planned for the future. From 2027, a nationwide prohibition will be slapped on the circulation of plastic bags and other single-used plastic items. That means disposable plastic utensils, food packaging, coffee capsules, and PET bottles.
Environmentalists still see room for improvement, though. They argue that the purportedly biodegradable bags that will continue to be permitted for use are also harmful to nature. Those kinds of bags are at present typically only provided to shoppers at larger supermarkets.
It is also uncertain how easy it will be to enforce any of this. Japarov already banned plastic bags from Issyk-Kul in June, but that appears to have been largely ignored. Some stores provided shoppers with paper bags, but they continued giving out plastic bags too. The latest decree doubles down on the ban and fleshes out the plans for future restrictions.
In their argument for the legislation on a total ban, authors of the bill noted that around 3,000 tons of packaging are imported into Kyrgyzstan annually. Citizens have persisted in using the bags because of their “low environmental awareness," the bill’s proponents said.
This is a problem that is only getting worse. The amount of household waste being produced in Kyrgyzstan is growing at a rate of 5 percent annually. Urban residents are estimated to produce 300 kilograms of garbage per person.
That in turn has led to the mushrooming of illegal dumps. Of the 406 landfills known to exist in Kyrgyzstan, only 107 are sanctioned.
Ayzirek Imanaliyeva is a journalist based in Bishkek.