The plastic conundrum

Mahmudur Rahman | Published: December 05, 2018 21:05:23

One of the vital cogs of the Climate Change agreement, since abandoned by the United States, is a renewed focus on recyclable packaging. That means an end or reduction to plastics and more fibre-friendly packaging. Innovation can drive unimaginable possibilities in the jute sector and it's sad that the focus is yet to be put on there. Instead plastic product exporters are seeking greater growth through incentives. Well guess what? The space is taken.

Scandinavia led by Norway already has more plastics than it can reuse, and it recycles a lot. With more and more recycling ventures afoot extending beyond plastic, the future market will dwindle quicker than can be expected. Of the estimated 300 million tonnes of plastic generated globally only 9.0 per cent is recycled and each country worth it salt is heading for some form of recycling. China with its massive outturn is just one of them. Norway is actually seeking to export its additional wastage. Sweden is experimenting in recycling waste into food production among other endeavours.

Bangladesh is notorious both in the usage and waste management of plastics leading to massive clogging of drain and sewerage systems with the obvious fallout of wastewater drainage issues. Everyone talks of it but no one acts on it. Garbage bins are slowly being more and more utilised but no state or private-run recycling activity exists. The answer is landfill, probably the most dangerous option available. It takes years for plastic to degrade anywhere near to its original form given it is a byproduct of fuel. If the dependency on fossil fuels is reduced, the byproduct will be less available.

Supershops are pushing consumers to buy biodegradable bags to the extent that some are accepting bag returns provided in good condition. For the foreseeable future plastics can't be phased out and in the meantime strict laws are required to prevent the more difficult degradable plastics from being produced. This in turn requires turnabout or reforming technology so as to adapt. Whether or not we have the stomachs to accept the additional investment is irrelevant because there is no other solution.

The City Fathers began a process of scientifically recycling waste - and sadly the foremost of the two passed away. His idea was to separate recyclables and hopefully encourage a private-public partnership for recycling. Initial spend may be significant but the outcome is far greater. There's more to recycling than re-use; it's about protecting land soil so that nutrients can regenerate. It's about not filling rivers and ponds with plastics that fish investing will land up on our own table. If not for us, for our future progeny. We owe it to them to walk the extra mile as did our ancestors who planted the trees that provide us sustainance , what's left of them.

 The writer can be contacted at: mahmudrahman@gmail.com




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