AN ESTIMATED 2,500 tonnes of plastic waste that laminated posters used in campaigns for the forthcoming city authorities election of Dhaka would produce appear to be worrying as the waste may harm city cleanliness and impact public health and the environment. The Environment and Social Development Organisation has raised the alarm in the absence of any effective disposal mechanism because the plastic waste, which is not biodegradable and which may seep into the human food chain, may clog drains and affect public health. The agency estimates 304 million posters to have been laminated despite a court ban on the use of laminated posters in city election campaigns. As the city authorities have no mechanism to manage or dispose of the plastic waste, the burning of the plastic, which is often employed by city authorities as a means of disposal, would release hazardous chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sulphur dioxide, dioxins, heavy metals and particulates that are known to cause respiratory problems, disrupt human immunity system and severely affect the air.
While all the mayoral and councillor candidates are full of heartening words to make the capital a healthy and clean city, such action of shrouding the city with laminated posters stands in contrast. There is a public perception that the mayors and councillors, making lofty and grand promises, would not even be able to clean the city up of their campaign posters in months once the election is over. Dhaka is faced with many crippling problems and a major problem is the lack of an effective waste disposal mechanism. About 87,000 tonnes of single-use plastic waste, according to Waste Concern, were generated in 2019 in urban hubs and a major share of them was produced in Dhaka. In such a situation, the production of 2,500 tonnes of plastic waste only from the election campaigns would add to the already worrying situation. Further worrying is that more than 10,438 tonnes of laminated plastic waste, as the Environment and Social Development Organisation says, would be produced in Dhaka in the next few months from other sources such as the ongoing Dhaka International Trade Fair and the forthcoming Amar Ekushey book fair.
The government must, under the circumstances, not allow the use of laminated plastic posters in any campaigns and festivities. The government and the city authorities must also ensure that the posters, laminated or not, are disposed of effectively and safely at the earliest for the good of public health and the environment. The government must also address the issue of plastic use and improper plastic dumping in the capital and elsewhere.
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