The dangers of plastic pollution worryingly left unattended
AN INCREASE in the use of plastic, coupled with the chaotic dumping of plastic waste in the absence of proper management, is a problem of great concern. The annual per capita plastic consumption in urban areas has tripled, according to a World Bank study, from three kilograms in 2005 to nine kilograms in 2020, while the annual per capita plastic consumption in Dhaka has reached 24 kilograms. . The study, based on data collected from November 2019 to November 2020 on the composition of waste in Dhaka landfills, shows that single-use thin polyethylene bags make up most of the plastic waste. Packaging used to package rice, flour, pulses and grains is the second most used plastic and multi-layer plastic, which includes all kinds of food and non-food packaging material, is the third most plastic item. used found in landfills. The study also shows that 70 percent, or roughly one million tonnes, of plastic waste is thrown away inappropriately while only 30 percent is collected for recycling. As the dangers of plastic pollution affect the entire country, Dhaka and its adjacent areas are likely to suffer the most.
About 10 percent of the waste collected in Dhaka is plastic waste, of which only 37 percent is recycled, 48 percent goes to landfills while the rest ends up in canals and rivers. It is estimated that 23,000 to 36,000 tonnes of plastic waste is disposed of annually in 1,212 hot spots around canals and rivers in and around Dhaka and most of this waste ends up in rivers and other bodies of water. . The study also finds a high concentration of plastic waste and an absence of waste management and recycling in tourist areas. What adds to the concern is that more plastic waste is being produced during the Covid epidemic as people use single-use personal protective materials. The danger of plastic pollution can hardly be overstated because plastic, in one way or another, ends up polluting the environment, altering the food chain and causing disease. Plastic can exist in soil and water for a long time because most are not biodegradable. It can also turn into leachate and, through heat, enter the food chain and enter humans, causing health complications and disease.
Bangladesh pioneered the ban on single-use plastic bags in 2002, but this decision has lost its effectiveness due to the ban’s non-enforcement. It is therefore imperative that the government put in place an effective mechanism to prevent plastic pollution and encourage industries to shift away from plastic production and use locally available biodegradable materials. The government must also invest in high-tech recycling to ensure that plastic is recycled. A bigger awareness campaign is also essential to get people to reduce the use of plastic.