The environmental pollution, triggered by worldwide industrialisation and urbanisation, is on the rise. Polythene and plastic are the main components of environmental pollution. In Bangladesh polythene shopping bags still rule the market though its production and use were banned nearly 16 years back, in 2002. It was the first country in the world to do so. The government in 2010 enacted another law in support of the 2002 ban, titled the "Mandatory Jute Packaging Act 2010" for the compulsory use of jute in packaging products instead. Nevertheless, the use of polythene bags and one-time-use plastics is rampant now, because of the non-enforcement of the law.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in a report observed that in Asia, several countries have attempted to control the manufacture and use of plastic bags through levies, and some governments already introduced plastic bag ban more than a decade ago, such as in Bangladesh. But the enforcement of regulations has often been poor, and single-use plastic bags continue to be widely used and mismanaged despite prohibitions and levies. In contrast, UNEP observed, another Asian example is Japan, where no ban is in place on single-use plastic, but due to a very effective waste management system and a high degree of social consciousness, the country accounts for relatively limited leakages of single-use plastics in the environment. Again, China seeks to green logistics services to beat plastic pollution.
In Bangladesh, the jute and textiles ministries are close to making jute-derived poly bags, which can be an effective replacement for polythene bags. Jute-derived poly bags look a lot like polythene but are not hazardous to the environment. These will get dissolved with soil within three months. As polythene bags are blocking the drainage system in cities and towns across the country the importance of raising awareness among the city dwellers about the harmful nature of polythene needs to be stressed.
Polythene is being used indiscriminately and each year around 300,000 tonnes of plastic waste are being dumped into water bodies and open places. Although Bangladesh is known as a user of natural products, the use of plastic is increasing here day by day and about 10 per cent of total waste produced per day is plastic waste. Thus ecological balance is being damaged due to excessive use and production of plastic.
The situation demands stringent enforcement of relevant law to resist illegal production, marketing and use of plastic to prevent environment pollution. At least four-points are to be stressed, which are: (i) ensuring exemplary punishment for violating law, (ii) planning and implementing community based waste management system, (iii) taking initiatives in government and non-government sectors to ensure recycling of plastic goods, and (iv) inventing environment friendly alternatives of plastics.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.
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