THE use and unplanned dumping of single-use plastic containers, which causes serious health hazards and environmental pollution, is worrying and shows negligence about reduction in the use of single-use plastic and its management. A two-year private study done in 2018–2019, made public on Monday, shows that 87,000 tonnes of single-use plastic containers are thrown away every year which end up in water bodies, waterways and the sea. The study also raises concern about the fact that plastic, in one way or another, end up in polluting the environment, get into the food chain and causes serious diseases. Plastic can exist in soil and water for a long time as most of it is not biodegradable. It can turn into leachate and, through heat, get into the food chain and enter humans, causing cancer, lung complication and other diseases. Even when burnt, plastic releases hazardous chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sulphur dioxide, dioxins, furans, heavy metals and particulates, known to cause respiratory ailments and disrupt the human immunity system.
While many countries have either banned or reduced single-use plastic to stop environment pollution and health hazards, Bangladesh appears to have put in not much effort to contain or reduce single-use plastic. Despite the government’s declared commitment to reduce plastic use, it has largely not taken any effective action so far, which added to the use of single-use plastic in food packaging, drinking straws, cotton buds, sachets, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and plastic bags. Plastic wastes increased 17.52 times in 2014, compared with that in 1992, as a February 2019 Waste Concern study shows. The study also shows that the per capita annual consumption of plastic products in Dhaka was 5.56 kilograms in 2005, which increased to 17.24 kilograms in 2017. According to a UN Environment Programme study, Bangladesh is among the top 10 plastic-polluting countries while it is the seventh among the world’s plastic-consuming nations. The study reveals that 73,000 tonnes of plastics waste end up in the sea through major rivers — the Brahmaputra, the Meghna and the Ganges. The share of plastic in dumps also increased to 8.45 per cent in 2014 from 5.25 per cent in 2005. Experts blame government indifference for the alarming crisis even after having laws, policies and international convention ratification pledging commitment to reduce plastic waste and ensure its proper management.
Bangladesh became a pioneer in banning single-use plastic shopping bags in 2002, but the move lost its efficacy because of non-enforcement the ban. It is, therefore, imperative for the government to put in place an effective mechanism to prevent plastic pollution and encourage industries to divert from the production of plastic and to use locally available biodegradable options. Greater awareness campaign is also a must at the same time to make people party to plastic use reduction.
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