Plastic pollution continues unabated posing a serious threat to public health while the government initiative for its safe management is virtually “zero.”
Plastics play a vital role in everyday life. In the last few years, production of plastic products has been diversified, and likewise the range of plastic waste has also increased.Though Bangladesh has a law prohibiting the use of plastic bags, there is still no regulation on production and management of other plastic products which choke the environment.
Increase in the use of plastic leads to increase in pollution. But proper management and recycling plastic waste are absent.
Besides, water channels such as rivers, are used as dumping ground for industrial and domestic waste that contain a huge amount of plastic and ultimately end up in the sea.
Plastic products including furniture, household items, containers and other accessories are popular in Bangladesh for being cheap.
People often use plastic water bottles, plastic plates, plastic forks and spoons, plastic cups for tea or coffee, all meeting daily necessities, but at the cost of environmental pollution ending up in rivers and eventually getting into the ocean (Bay of Bengal).
A huge quantity of plastic waste -- mostly used for packaging different goods including food items and medicine -- is found in drains, canals, rivers and roads around the country.According to a survey of Poribesh Bachao Andolon (POBA) in 2018, the use of plastics in Bangladesh has grown to 1.2 million metric tons in 2018 compared to just 15 thousand metric tons in 1990. That means the use of plastics in Bangladesh has increased by 80 times in the past 28 years.
Abdus Sobhan, general secretary of POBA, said: “There are about 5,000 small, medium and large-scale plastic factories in the country. At least 1.2 million metric tons of plastic items are produced on a daily basis from these factories. The annual per head use of plastic is around 7.5kg in the country.”
Around eight million metric tons of plastic are dumped in the seabed every year, he added.
He said the government should take firm steps to ensure the use of environmentally friendly bags, such as those made of jute, paper and cloth, in the market.
He also urged the government to strongly enforce the environment-related laws.
According to health experts, plastic litters break into small pieces called microplastic, which affect many species, including seabirds, marine mammals and fish through entanglement and ingestion, and subsequently humans after entering the food chain. Microplastic beads can also cause cancer in humans.
Urban planners said plastics dumped here and there contribute to waterlogging in Dhaka and Chattogram as plastic waste blockades drainage systems frequently.
Bangladesh experienced floods in urban areas in 1998 and 2008 where polythene and plastic materials were one of the major causes for the blockage of the drainage systems.
Jahangirnagar University’s environment science professor Md Khabir Uddin told daily sun that “Nowadays people are using huge plastic products due to its cheap price and availability. But its safe management after use is very important.”
“The use of Plastic became dangerous day by day as the government had no control over its production and had no safe management after its use,” he added.
He said, “It is necessary to take initiatives for the safe management of plastic after use.
Plastic lasts up to 1,000 years, and accounts for nearly 90 percent of the debris in the oceans around the world.
Every year, it is estimated that 20,000 metric tons of plastic waste are being littered into the Bay of Bengal, according to a recent study conducted by the Bangladesh Fish Research Institute and Bangladesh Agricultural University.
Experts said that Bangladesh dumps plastic waste daily for the lack of recycling facilities.
A report produced by the World Economic Forum (2018) found that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world oceans due to 13 million tonnes of plastic ending up in the ocean each year.
Though the government has made the use of jute bags compulsory through an amendment to the Jute Packaging Act, 2013, after banning the use of plastic and polythene bags, polythene bags have returned to markets in different shapes.
Polythene manufacturers are still producing and marketing such bags as the law is not implemented.