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Going all out to address plastic menace

| Updated: September 15, 2022 21:14:09


Going all out to address  plastic menace

Plastic, a substance made from the waste products found while processing crude oil and natural gas in the early 1930s, is now a global threat to the environment and life. Once admired for its durability, this universal packaging material has now become a curse since unlike most other substances of everyday use, it does not mix with soil and degrade. Now microplastics have found their way into the food chains of humans and other animals including those in ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans raising the threat to life to a new level.

According to a World Bank (WB) study, in the last 15 years, the use of plastic products in the country tripled from 3.0 kg per head annually in 2005 to 9.0 kg in 2020. Of the approximately 0.1 million tonnes of plastic used in the country in 2020, only 31 per cent were recycled, while the rest was mismanaged, which means that those (mismanaged) plastic products, the disposable polythene bags, in particular, were dumped everywhere- on the roads, in the drains, in the landfills and in the water bodies. How alarming, at 24 kg per capita per year in 2020, the capital city's plastic consumption was close to thrice the national average in that year! But of this huge quantity of plastic garbage (some 646 tonnes) that Dhaka generates every day, only 37.2 per cent are properly managed, that is, recycled. Notably, in the European countries, the average per capita plastic consumption is far higher at 100 kg than that in Bangladesh. But still Bangladesh is among the world's top plastic-polluted countries due to its mismanagement of the plastic waste.

In this connection, reports from the port city of Chattogram on plastic pollution are a cause for added concern. Around 3,000 tonnes of waste the port city produces daily, 8.3 per cent, or 249 tonnes, constitute plastic waste. About 44 per cent of this plastic waste, mainly polythene products, are collected and deposited in the landfills, while the rest, uncollected 56 per cent, are left to clog the port city's drains and the canals leading to its chronic water-logging. A recently done Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (CUET)-sponsored study found that, among other causes, a lack of public awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution, shortage of garbage bins, burning of plastic/polythene products and a lack of enforcement of relevant laws to protect environment lay behind the port city's woes relating to plastic pollution. But Bangladesh should not have been in such a hell born of mismanaged plastic waste. It was the first country in the world to ban plastic shopping bags two decades back (in 2002). This brings us to the issue of sustainably managing plastic waste.

On this score, the government is learnt to have endorsed a national action plan for sustainable plastic management under the rubric of 'roadmap' to protect the environment. Also, the environment ministry has issued a gazette notification to this effect recently. The so-called 'roadmap, meant to rid coastal areas of the hazardous, single-use plastic, as reported, is obviously a step in the right direction. Its policy of circular use of plastic based on what it calls a 3R strategy (reduce, reuse, recycle), is, to all appearances, a sustainable way to rid the environment of plastic menace. However, the crucial point is to consider the plastic menace an emergency and go all out about removing it from the environment.

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