Inaction on plastic ban is killing our environment

This lack of implementation has become the hallmark of the Bangladeshi environment authorities, a trend that stretches as far back as 2002 when Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban polythene bags.



June 6, 2023

DHAKA – It is unacceptable that despite repeated warnings about the grave dangers posed by plastic pollution to the environment, the government has failed miserably to address it. That didn’t change even after the High Court in 2020 ordered the government to impose a ban on single-use plastic products by 2021. Even after three years, we see no active measures or willingness to comply with that directive. This lack of implementation has, unfortunately, become the hallmark of our environment authorities, a trend that stretches as far back as 2002 when Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban polythene bags, albeit to little effect on the ground.

The use of polythene bags was banned through an amendment to the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995. Section 6(A) of the amended act imposed the ban on the manufacture, import, marketing, sale, demonstration, stock, distribution, commercial carriage, and commercial use of all kinds of polythene shopping bags, including polyethylene and polypropylene bags. Even a three-year action plan was reportedly submitted to the environment ministry. But no effective action has been taken ever since.

According to a study by the Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), only 10-15 percent of polythene and plastic bags are properly disposed of or recycled after use. Most of them end up in drains, sewage pipes, and open areas, which is responsible for up to 80 percent of Dhaka’s waterlogging problem. The havoc that they are wreaking on our rivers is also visible to everyone. A World Bank study, unveiled in December 2021, found that plastic use was increasing rapidly in Bangladesh. It said that 69 percent of disposable plastic products were left uncollected, and only 31 percent were being recycled. Between 2005 and 2021, our per capita plastic use tripled to 9kg from 3kg. And it is far worse in Dhaka, where the amount rose to 24kg, almost three times higher than that in other urban areas. All this is really alarming.

The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has recently called upon the government to ensure strict enforcement of law to control plastic pollution, including through the imposition of a “pollution tax” as well as its effective implementation. Without such strict measures, plastic will continue to destroy our environment. We urge the government to take this menace seriously, and also ramp up efforts to recycle plastic products and promote the use of healthier alternatives such as jute products.

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