Harmful Plastic: No alternative to strict policy stand

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Information that surfaced in Prothom Alo’s report regarding plastic waste on the banks of Buriganga marking World Environment Day on 5 June, is extremely unsettling.

Citing Stamford University’s Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS)’s research, the report stated that plastic can be found just by digging into the soil on the banks of Buriganga.

Plastic is showing up even seven feet underground. These plastics from the banks later sink to the river bed.

Both the river and the soil on the banks of the river are endangered by the plastic. What’s the way out of this threatening situation?

As resolved at the United Nations International Conference in 1972, 5 June is observed as World Environment Day across the world every year at the initiative of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The theme of World Environment Day this year is ‘Solutions to Plastic Pollution’.

That means, though people use plastic for their everyday need, the whole world is working on how to bring its environmental damage or pollution under control. Plus, environmentalists are organising movements.

Various steps are also being taken in developed countries for the protection of the environment. Even in our country, policymakers of the government are uttering different promises at meetings and seminars.

But, no effective and sustainable steps are noticed to be taken to prevent pollution.

Plastic pollution in the country is rising at a scary rate. There are chemical substances in it, which are detrimental for the environment and health.

Plastic is a notable cause of various diseases including cancer, kidney complications and high blood pressure. As per UNEP data, eight million tonnes of plastic waste end up at the ocean across the globe every year.

Plastic-like objects never decay, that’s the reason this waste is causing deadly damage to the environment and the biodiversity. Micro plastic particles are increasing health risk for humans by entering the food chain through fish, bird and animals. It’s even reducing the soil fertility.

The use of plastic in the country is also accelerating at an excessive rate. Back in 2005, per person plastic use in urban areas was just 3 kilograms. It rose to 9 kilogram in 2020.

The annual use of plastic per person in Dhaka has risen from 9kg to 24 kg in this time. As much as 10 per cent of waste, generated in the country throughout the year comes from plastic materials.

Out of that, 48 per cent reaches landfills, 37 per cent is recycled, 12 per cent makes its way into canals and rivers and 3 per cent falls into drains.

Polythene and plastic both are highly harmful for the environment. The government had enacted a law banning polythene use in 2002. Its use was limited for some time.

But the government later strayed from that stand being pressurised by the opportunistic groups. And, polythene flooded the market.

The initiative government had taken to launch jute bags as a replacement of polythene, was quashed as well. In this situation the question, how plausible it is to ban plastic use completely, has been raised.

We believe there’s no alternative to government’s strict policy stand in this matter. In the present reality, initiatives can be taken to reduce environmental damages through proper planning and implementing the environmental law at least.  

Besides, the issue of public awareness is vital too. The awareness that used plastic cannot be littered just anywhere has to be created as well.