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Plastic pollution in Bangladesh

Aishwarya Anwar Arshi

What is plastic pollution? How does it hamper nature (i.e. water, land, air and sound
The modern world is the one which demands comfort over anything, and at those times of desperate needs plastic product turns out as an asset of convenience. As the world population grows so does the plastic commodity production, and these limitless plastic production and consumption due to its low price rate and durability are giving rise to plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is generally termed as when plastics after being huddled on for a long time in a place begins to have a catastrophic effect on the environment and risks the lives of humans and animals.

Why it should concern us? Well, let’s take a look around. Is there any part of the planet we can rather be without being surrounded by the plastics? The answer is negative. Menacing every kind of living beings and violating every pattern that nature should follow, we are letting plastic take over the environment.

Plastic is indeed an advantageous consumption matter, but it possesses toxic pollutants which pose a threat to the living organisms, and its durable trait for many years makes it non-biodegradable. Since plastics cannot be exterminated wholly, it excessively hampers the natural life causing pollution in every sector of environments like soil, air, and water bodies. 

● Plastic acts as a source of chain pollutions all over the world. The durability of plastic products makes it proportional to the usage of it. Hence, the overuse and unplanned
dumping of the materials. Due to the lack of systematic and convenient ways of disposition of plastic wastes, it gets exposed to the environment more frequently.

● The scattered plastics sometimes breaking into small plastics called micro-plastics make it almost impossible to extricate it from nature. The lands are immediately polluted
affecting the wildlife as well. These toxic pollutants also reach groundwater, unnoticed, remaining there for years to come.

● Circulating through different water bodies and lands throughout the entire world it exposes a greater threat to living organisms. Toxic plastic pollutants contribute highly to
the development of diseases like food poisoning, cancer, asthma, endocrine disruption and others. 

●  Furthermore, the food chains of aquatic animals are jeopardized, often endangering their extinction and disrupting usual health issues. The pollutants like cans, paper, and plastic bags are harmful as these solids float over water and block the rays of the sun disordering the cycle of conversion of carbon dioxide/oxygen, which is a critical mechanism for the food chain of aquatic life. 

●  Not to mention, the burning of plastic products are not any less fatal for the natural habitat, especially in the case of inhalation. The fact does not conclude with the pollution, because as much as it pollutes it leaves us wondering how we are to get rid of this toxicity while it is consuming every place available in every second. According to the World Economic Forum, “we dump the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean each minute,” it further indicates to the dilemma that by 2050, undoubtedly, there will be more plastic than fish in oceans by weight. The world is at the peril of its destruction and little do we realize that our actions are what taking us close to this uncontrollable situation every passing day. It is high time we take responsibility for our action.

 Air Pollution Prevention: 
Incineration of plastic waste in open fields and in general is a major source of air pollution. Black carbon (soot) is also released by burning plastic which contributes to climate change and air pollution and harms the environment immensely. Incineration is not a feasible solution for plastic pollution and it is harmful. Hence, it needs to stop. And a place should be fixed away from the city and neighbourhoods to dump and recycle the plastics. Most plastics are made from fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas which release toxic emissions to the environment when extracted. Oil and gas drilling releases huge amounts of air pollutants which heavily contribute to air pollution. So, to protect the environment and to keep the air less polluted, alternate ways should be applied and raw materials should be used which will not harm the air and air cycle.

 Water Pollution Prevention:
● Plastic waste reduction: 80% of plastic in our oceans is from land sources. To reduce the amount of plastic entering our ocean, we need to both reduce our use of plastic globally and to improve plastic waste management.
● Water conservation: Without water conservation, we won’t go very far. It’s key to ensuring greater access to clean water for the world. This means being mindful that water
is a scarce resource, taking care of it and using it wisely, appropriately.

● Rainwater management: It is necessary to avoid contaminating the rainwater with plastic contaminants, and to allow more effective use of water. Treatment of wastewater is the removal of contaminants from wastewater by a physical, chemical or biological process. The more effective such systems are, the water is cleaner.

Land Pollution Prevention
In order to tackle land pollution, we must first understand how lands are polluted and figure out effective ways to prevent them, as they say, prevention is better than cure. We have to realize that the ways lands are polluted varies from urban to rural area, thus tackling this problem would require dynamic approaches, roughly speaking. Many countries like Canada, Peru have put restriction on “Single-use” plastics in order to reduce plastic waste from the root. Bangladesh could resort to solutions like this as well. For example:
one time water bottles can be replaced by installing drinking water points in grocery shops and subscribers would have to carry a reusable water bottle in order to avail the service. Countries like Chile put a ban on retail use of plastic bags across the country. We can take a page out of their book and implement legislations in our country that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.

No matter how much one time plastic products are discourage, there would still be some plastic waste that needs to be taken care of. In that case, recycle is the way to go. But in order for that to properly operate, there are a number of steps that needs to be undertaken with utmost urgency. Firstly, plastic waste recycle plants must be installed and be efficient to process the amount of plastic waste produced everyday. Secondly, plastic waste must be sorted properly for this to work out the way it’s supposed to. Disposal cans for plastic waste can be placed at frequent distances and throwing them anywhere but the designated places should be deemed as punishable crime. Municipal services can collect the plastic waste from households separately.

Social awareness programs can be run around initiatives like this in order to motivate people to refrain from using single use plastic products and lean towards alternatives that are suitable for environmental health. Talking about plastic product alternatives, our government can increase their interest towards biodegradable one time products, like the jute polythene bags titles “Sonali Bag”. Mass production of such products would create job opportunities for many as well, while on the other hand it would provide the people with more biodegradables than plastic, which can tremendously reduce plastic waste in our country. If the people are made aware of the adverse effects plastic waste has on land and overall environment, and are given viable alternatives to one-time plastic products, we might just have a shot at saving the land from plastic wastes.

Examples of how some countries are managing waste. Where does Bangladesh stand?
Plastic waste management is a challenging task for quite a lot of country in the world, as improper means of waste disposal contributes to the disruption of the ecosystem that eventually leads to calamities like global warming. In this regard, this challenge for Bangladesh is immense, considering the gigantic amount of plastic waste produced every day by the huge population restricted in a limited living area. If we take a look at countries like USA, China, Germany, we’ll be able to see different approaches towards tackling plastic waste management and compare that with Bangladesh’s position. Through compare and contrast, we might be able to find a viable, eco-friendly and effective way of managing plastic waste in our country.

USA’s plastic waste has become a global hot potato since China refused to receive their non-recyclable plastic waste in 2017. Although they have developed vast industry of harvesting and reusing clean plastic products, the contaminated, non-recyclable portion of plastic waste still remain in question. The latter is produced in huge amount in America, and they often find their way into landfills or the Pacific, while the rest are sent to some Asian countries like Hong Kong, Vietnam, Philippines or Bangladesh. But in the process, mismanagement and failure to sort properly suspends the recycling process and ends up damaging the environment.

China’s initial approach towards plastic waste management had been incineration and energy production, but that is severely harmful towards the ecosystem. As a result, their government and various organizations have taken initiative to efficiently manage plastic waste while preserving the environment. China has managed to turn waste management into a large scale business that would accommodate paid employees, from waste sorting to transportation and finally processed in the facility. This waste classification system would enable the facilities to use plastic waste materials in order to produce certain necessities like biogas or electricity. This opens up a new door towards inventing new technologies regarding plastic waste classification system and management that would complement the environment and restore the ecological balance.

Germany too prefers plastic waste management than disposal and is choosing to follow the eco-friendly path. Their plastic waste management act is a five-level waste hierarchy in the order of waste prevention, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and finally disposal. Their emphasis is on waste prevention and reuse, while they sort out waste to properly be able to recycle and recover – that can be material goods to energy. This method of minimum plastic waste generation and maximum recycling comes from an environmental protection standpoint, that would not only sustainably strengthen the environment but also contribute to efficient resource production.

Where does Bangladesh stand in comparison with these countries? If we look at our capital, we will be able to learn where we stand in terms of global standards. According to a UNFPA report, Dhaka is one of the most polluted cities in the world. This is just a small fact regarding the huge underlying problem of municipal waste management. Dhaka city corporation’sregulations for solid waste dictate that local staff would collect daily garbage from house to house, the collected garbage is to be brought back to a local hub and sorted scientifically. Although the efficiency of this sorting process is often doubted since the plastic waste are often found burned than properly processed due to lack of not only adequate processing facilities but also public awareness of the grave harm plastic waste can do to the environment.

These wastes from the hub, including plastic, are transported and dumped in the landfills like the ones in Aminbazar and Matuali, that have been reportedly producing a huge quantity of leachates (liquid drained from landfills that is harmful to both arable soil and water). The leachate treatment plant in Matuali is unable to process a large amount of leachate and on the other hand, the landfills in Aminbazar do not even have any leachate plant.

Sewage systems are reportedly inadequate in both urban and rural areas, the three R system undertaken by DNCC is failing miserably, DNCC and DSCC’s waste-based power plant never made it out of papers due to shortage of fund, roadside mini bins gradually got stolen soon after the installation –Bangladesh’s waste management is challenged with tons of similar problems, faults and inadequacies. And in terms of global perspectives, waste management system of Bangladesh is way under par and requires utmost attention as well as effective implementation of efficient eco-friendly planning. Countries like China and Malaysia are taking a stand against importing foreign plastic waste and are investing in processing their own waste along with finding viable alternatives. We must take a strong stance like them in fighting plastic waste if we hope to survive and make the mother earth greener and pollution-free again.

Overall, how can we better manage plastic waste in Bangladesh? Understanding your roles
and responsibilities here and how can you influence others.

Bangladesh is one of the top 10 countries of the world which contributes to plastic pollution globally. A study released in February 2019 shows that a total of 821,250 tons of plastic waste were generated in urban hubs of Bangladesh a year while some 207,685 tons were dumped in a marine environment annually. Waste plastic materials from land mostly end up in the rivers and eventually in the Bay of Bengal contaminating water to an extreme level. Though the problem seems inexhaustible and as a challenging one to solve but no problem comes without a solution.
In this case, it might take little more of our will than actions to eradicate the obstacle. 

Solid waste disposal is a big challenge for our country, since we have a large population confined within a smaller land area. So in order to process solid waste, specially plastic waste, we must follow the rule of three R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – reduce the waste we throw away, lean towards reusing objects and try to use or purchase items that can be recycled. Regarding this, in depth awareness programs can be run in educational institutions through demonstrating how implementing this method would eventually reduce the chances of pollution and also showing the devastating blow we would receive should we choose to ignore this problem.

 Plastic waste management:
●  Proper dumping of any kind of waste is the foremost part to build an eco-friendly environment. If plastic pollutants are decomposed properly in the waste bin, it will solve most of the problem. The places which lack proper dumping system, bringing under consideration and placing trash containers to dump plastic based on their recycling and
non-recycling traits is needed.  

● While managing plastic trash it should be brought under a light that most marine debris is consist of plastic. So waste management system in coastal areas needs our attention more than ever. What’s more, since a part our communication system is built up based on waterways transportation like launch, steamboats or ships need proper waste
decomposition system to avoid water pollution. 

● Mineral water bottles are the most overused plastic products which are suggested for one- time use only. People ignoring this fact reuse the same plastic bottle over months. But once used the plastic bottles should go into the trash. 

● Plastic consumption should be reduced. People must think of the materials that can replace plastic conveniently. For example, one can carry jute made bag, or bag made of
cloth while grocery shopping. 

●  Awareness can be raised among the people, especially among the kids who are yet to get educated about pollution. If a habit can be created through proper education and
campaign, it will simplify the problem at many levels.

●  Recyclable plastics should be dumped separately. In that case, putting up a visible sign can help people to differentiate regular wastes from recyclable wastes.

These cannot be done single-handedly. We all need our parts to contribute. All we care is to take action against an immediate consequence as opposed to something that renders long term processed consequences. And plastic is one of that complex, high-end problem we decide to take

no notice of despite the deeply rooted repercussion it provides. There is no second planet to escape. So the time of change is NOW. We could be heroes, the choice is ours to make.