The persistent problem of plastic pollution
This year at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Bangladesh played an important leadership role as the leader of the Climate Vulnerability Forum (CVF), pushing for greater accountability to the climate. pollutants and fighting for climate action on the global stage. As a country already bearing the brunt of the climate emergency, despite contributing less than 0.5% of global emissions, we not only have the moral authority to speak out, but we have also led the way. with actions like the creation of the Mujib. Climate prosperity plan. By all accounts, Bangladesh remains a respected and important player in climate diplomacy circles.
However, climate change and environmental pollution are two sides of the same coin, and by downplaying the latter, Bangladesh’s performance has been woefully inadequate, if not downright negligent. This is particularly the case in terms of overconsumption of plastic and poor management of plastic waste. While globally there is pressure to reduce plastic consumption, in urban areas of Bangladesh it has tripled in 15 years (between 2005 and 2020), according to a World Bank study. Of the 977,000 tonnes of plastic consumed in 2020, only 31% was recycled, the rest ended up in landfills, rivers, canals, drains and unserved areas.
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The deplorable state of our rivers is testament to the crisis that has been created by our apathy towards plastic pollution. In March of this year, it was announced that the cost of dredging the Karnaphuli River had increased by Tk 49 crore (19%) due to the removal of a thick layer of plastic waste from the river bed. Dredging operations to remove silt from the Barishal river port also lasted for months due to the huge amounts of polyethylene and plastic dumped into the water. Every year, around 200,000 tonnes of plastics flow into the Bay of Bengal from Bangladesh, which has huge consequences not only on marine life, but also on human health, due to the infiltration of microplastics into our ecosystem. .
How can a country well known for its climate diplomacy – and for taking progressive steps such as banning the use of polythene bags as early as 2002 and banning single-use plastics in coastal areas in 2020 – can he still have such reckless high levels of plastic pollution? It is clear that the government has so far failed to match its policy with appropriate actions. This cannot continue – authorities must ensure that they stick to the National Action Plan for Sustainable Plastic Management in order to reduce the generation of plastic waste and recycle as much as possible.
At the same time, there must be a concerted push to use alternatives to plastic packaging. Bangladeshi scientists have already invented jute polymer packaging and biodegradable packaging materials from corn. We have all the resources at our fingertips to reinvent ourselves and move from one of the most plastic polluting countries in the world to one that brings its own sustainable solutions to global platforms. It is now up to the authorities to demonstrate their commitment to this end and to act accordingly.