87,000 tonnes single-use plastic materials dumped annually

Staff Correspondent

22 October, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Some 87,000 tonnes of single-use plastic materials are dumpred every year, of which about 96 percent constituted food and personal care product packaging.

About 35 percent  of the total of these wastes are sachets, which are completely non-recyclable.

ESDO, the Environment & Social Development Organisation, said this after its second annual survey of plastics use in Bangladesh.

This year ESDO focused exclusively on single-use plastics (SUP).  The organisation surveyed over 800 people in urban and rural areas of Bangladesh, asking detailed questions about what types of plastic they use, where these plastic items come from, and how they are disposed off. 

In addition, the study integrated the findings from ESDO’s 2018 study of 1200 people from four major divisional cities (Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Sylhet) to derive a comprehensive overview on urban situation. 

Most single-use plastic used in Bangladesh are not disposed of properly, and so they end up in the landfills, lakes, rivers, or in the ocean.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that 73 thousand tonnes of plastic waste end up in the sea through Bangladesh’s major rivers Brahmaputra, Meghna and Ganges.

Airlines, residential hotels, restaurants and super shops have also emerged as significant sources of single use plastic waste.

ESDO’s study indicates that over 2,000 tonnes of single-use plastics are used by restaurants every year, with an additional 700 tonnes coming from airlines and 600 tonnes from hotels.

Plastics are made up of many chemical components released into the environment when improperly disposed.

In addition, many types of plastics contain additives. People are exposed to these chemicals not only during manufacturing, but also by using plastic packages, because some chemicals migrate from the plastic packaging to the foods they contain.

Contamination from plastic packaging can give rise to the gradual development of chronic health problems as serious as endocrine disruption, which can lead to cancers, birth defects, immune system suppression and development of problems in children.

However, serious damage to respiratory, renal and cardiovascular systems is also induced from the continuous use of chemically contaminated single use plastic products.

In addition, improperly disposed single use plastic waste posed to be a major source of environmental pollution and degradation.

It creates several environmental impacts such as air pollution, water pollution, water quality degradation, soil fertility declination, development of unsanitary and filthy condition and subsequent increase in vector-borne diseases etc.

The most obvious form of pollution associated with plastic packaging is waste plastic sent to landfills.

Plastics are very stable and therefore remain in the environment a long time after they are discarded, especially if they are shielded from direct sunlight by being buried in landfills.

Plastics also put a big chemical burden on the environment. However, single use plastic is a major source of marine pollution and has been endangering the lives of thousands of aquatic and marine organisms worldwide.

Although Bangladesh banned single-use plastic shopping bags in 2002, ESDO notes that the country has fallen behind in regulation since then.

Most recently, India has announced a ban on all forms of single use plastic in October 2019, and seeks to completely phase out single use plastic products by the year 2022. Apart from India, another big South Asian nation China has introduced a ban on the import of plastic scraps last year.

The carbon negative nation Bhutan has also passed regulations to ban single use plastic in September this year. Furthermore, The island of Bali, Indonesia has banned single use plastics including bags, straws and Styrofoam as of July 2019.

Moreover, countries in North America and Europe have also taken or planning to take drastic steps in controlling single use plastic pollution in their respective nations France is the first country to announce a total ban on SUP, to be effective from 2020. 

London plans to impose ban on the usage of single use plastics to be implemented from April 2020.

However, in Bangladesh, the issue is yet to be addressed with greater priority owing to lack of public awareness.

ESDO’s survey report reveals that nearly half of the total SUP consumers from urban areas lack knowledge of the adverse impacts of plastic pollution.

This lack of awareness has led to undermine the importance of the issue in ensuring environmental health and safety. However, the majority of the population (60%) has expressed interest in adopting alternatives to single use plastics.

To cut down on plastic pollution, ESDO puts forth recommendations for consumers and for the government.

ESDO strongly recommends that the government of Bangladesh pass a complete ban on SUP.  “Bangladesh must follow the example of India and other nations in banning single-use plastics, or we risk being overwhelmed as manufacturers and importers turn their attention on us,” says ESDO Secretary General Dr Shahriar Hossain. 

“Banning the single-use plastic is a necessary move to protect the health and environment of Bangladesh. Fortunately, cost-effective alternatives are widely available.”

For instance, straws made up of bamboo sticks are being widely used and manufactured in hilly regions of the country.  In Kushtia district, compostable ice cream cups are produced from leaves.

“Local production of plant-based alternatives can provide rich opportunities to increase local sustainable manufacturing and jobs throughout Bangladesh,” explains ESDO Chairperson Syed Marghub Murshed.