The production and use of polythene bags keep growing across the country defying all bans, as authorities are yet to find a suitable alternative over the last 15 years, experts say.
They said that non-enforcement of law and adequate efforts to create awareness among the masses about the risk factors of polythene bags on humans and the environment, have contributed to its increased use.
Under the Bangladesh Environment Protect (Amendment 2002) Act 1995, the government in 2007 allowed the production of 55-micron thick polythene for packaging of garment products, medicine and some other products which gradually contributed to the rise in production.
A number of shopkeepers and customers at different kitchen markets in the capital said they use polythene bags to carry essentials for unavailability of low-cost and eco-friendly alternatives.
However, the good news is that Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) is introducing jute-made biodegradable poly bags to replace polythene.
Contacted, urban expert and former chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Prof Nazrul Islam said, "People earlier used to go to markets with reusable jute or cloth bags to buy essential items. Due to easy availability of polythene bags, people, in urban and rural areas, hardly exercise this old habit."
Nobody from sellers to customers feels the use of polythene bag is illegal and harmful for lack of enforcement of law and awareness, he observed.
"The government must persuade both the customers and shopkeepers to use environment-friendly bags discarding such harmful ones. We'll have to cut our dependency on polythene bags and go to the market with reusable jute or cloth bags as we did in the past,” he said.
The manufacture, marketing and use of polythene bags were banned in the country in 2002 amid growing concerns about its harmful effect on environment.
Chairman of Poribesh Banchao Andolon Abu Naser Khan said since polythene bags are not biodegradable, it causes serious harm to the environment, reduces fertility of soil and harms the biodiversity and human health in many ways.
"One polythene bag takes over 400 years to decompose in soil," he said.
DoE should take initiatives to conduct regular drives against polythene manufacturing factories alongside making cheaper alternative eco-friendly bags, he added.
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan General Secretary Abdul Matin urged the government to stop the use of polythene bags within next six months by taking strict measures.
"People will surely change their habit when polythene bags are forced out of the market," he added.
Bangladesh Jute Mill Corporation (BJMC) chief scientific adviser Dr Mobarak Ahmed said they are launching eco-friendly jute made 'sonali poly bags' at the Dhaka International Trade Fair 2018 as an alternative to polythene bags.
These bags will initially be supplied to chain shops and garment factories and gradually will make its way into the market to replace the polythene bags, he added.