Every year, nearly 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the oceans and with that status quo it has been estimated that, there will be more plastic than fish by 2050. It is worthy to mention that in 2002 Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban thinner plastic bags. However, after 17 years, it appears that the ban is not truly come into force.
People are using polythene specially single-use plastics so often and disposing it everywhere in a way that it becomes one of the major causes of drainage blockage in city area. In 2010, the Government of Bangladesh took initiative to decrease the use of plastics through enacting ‘Mandatory Jute Packaging Act, 2010’. This Act emphasises on the compulsory use of jute packaging instead of plastic bag. The Act provides penalty for maximum 1-year imprisonment or fine 50,000 taka or both for using any non–biodegradable synthetics for packaging.
The unfortunate issue is that since the plastic bags are cheaper than jute bags, traders are found barely interested to practice the law. Apart from that, Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995 brought amendment in 2002 while inserting a new section (6A) that prescribes punishment for the production, import, marketing, sale, transportation, distribution of polythene bags. Despite such provisions, Bangladesh is still struggling to prevent the use of single-used plastic bags. The study by Eco-Social Development Organisation (ESDO) shows that, each month Bangladesh produces around 250 tons of single-use plastic as waste.
The excessive use of polythene bags leads to numerous problems especially in the city area. The non-biodegradable characteristics of plastic bags leave its devastating effect on the soil and water. The polymers form a layer on the surface of water and soil. As a result, the farming land becomes barren and crops yield from it are found to be contaminated.
The indiscriminate use of plastic has adverse effect on human health. Each stage of plastic lifecycle poses serious risk to human health. In recent study, scientists found microplastics in 114 marine species, the majority of which ultimately become subject to human consumption. According to a study of World Health Organization (WHO), it finds the existence of microplastic in 90% of water bottle which has been tested. The consumption of microplastic will cause respiratory diseases, and regulate the heart rate, digestion, fertility as well.
To reduce the use of plastic bags, many countries come forward with many fruitful initiatives. Colombia, for example, produces nearly 28,800 tons of solid waste every day. To tackle such serious plastic waste problem, it comes up with an idea named ECOBOT. The ECOBOT is basically a reverse vending machine situated in shopping mall and public space and encourages the recycle of plastic bottle. Every time a person deposits any plastic bottles, he will be rewarded by coupon of associated companies called ecopartners which includes movie tickets, shopping coupon and restaurant coupons. The deposited plastics are sent for recycling instead of disposing into landfills.
Indonesia go one step forward regarding such plastic wastage management, it provides a clinical scheme to reduce the plastic wastage. The country allows people to trade garbage for medical service and medicines. Clinic receives the garbage and sells it to recyclers for recycling purpose. Money acquire from recyclers is spent for providing the basic health care of its people.
In the context of Bangladesh, although the development of a biodegradable polymer from jute fibre by a Bangladeshi scientist seemed to be a positive move, however this project is yet to see any mentionable outcome due to mainly funding shortages. Apart from financing such innovative project of jute fibre, proper enforcement of aforesaid laws can reduce the use of polyethene and facilitate to build a strong plastic wastage management system.