CONSIDERING that plastic pollution risks a near-permanent contamination of the environment, World Environment Day is globally celebrated on Tuesday to create awareness of this pollution. The situation of plastic pollution in Bangladesh is also worrying. A photograph that New Age published on Tuesday shows how plastic wastes have filled the Kadamtali canal in Dhaka. According to a UNEP report, Bangladesh pours the fifth largest chunk of plastic into sea. More specifically, around 73,000 tonnes of plastic waste end up in the sea every day through the Padma, Jamuna and Meghna. Another earlier study of Waste Concern showed that the share of plastic wastes dumped at landfills rose to 8.45 per cent in 2014 from 5.25 per cent in 2005. Plastic is excessively used for packaging everyday food items and other commodities. The excessive use of plastic is not only environmentally hazardous but it also carries public health risks. Plastic can cause cancer, critical lung diseases and other deadly diseases in humans. Successive governments have taken piecemeal initiatives to discourage the use of plastic and manage plastic wastes. It is evident that without regulating industrial production and the use of plastic, it will not be possible to contain plastic pollution.
Current government efforts have fallen short of containing and preventing future plastic pollution. In 2010, the environment department formulated a strategy of reduce, reuse and recycle plastic which requires the use of dustbin of three colours for separating plastic and other non-degradable wastes while collecting municipal wasters. However, the strategy is still in paper and it has never taken off to implementation. Bangladesh was one of the first countries to ban the use of polythene bags, but the ban has not been effectively enforced. The government’s waste management policy also proves inadequate. Existing laws and regulations do not mandate local government authorities to check environmental pollution in managing solid wastes. Many environmental scientists and green activists have asked the government to develop a waste management policy that will prioritise recycling and conceive waste as a resource. They have also asked the government to encourage industrialists to divest from plastic to environmentally-friendly local alternative, such as biodegradable jute products, to meet their packaging demands. While the government has to lead the way to contain plastic pollution, civic participation is a must to make a real difference. Unrestrained dumping of plastic waste must come to end.
The government, under the circumstance, must design a comprehensive plan to prevent plastic pollution that will include effective waste management and recycling plan and encourage and incentivise industries to divest from production and use of plastic by using locally available biodegradable options. However, the comprehensive plan will not bring desired result unless people at large participate in the implementation. The government and civic groups must, therefore, hold public campaigns to make people aware of severe consequence of an unchecked use and dumping of plastic products.
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