Our homeland, the world, has endured so much oppression that it has kept us alive even today. Earth's environment is under threat today due to various human activities and natural causes. But everyone's dream is a clean and tidy country. “World Cleanup Day” is observed on the third Saturday of September every year in an effort to keep the country clean. This year it is being celebrated on 19 September 2020 with the goal to make people aware of the importance of dumping garbage in certain places, to make people aware of the problems caused by waste. Among the other Municipal waste, plastic has become a terrific threat to our environment.
The use of plastics is increasing in line with the development of human civilization. At one time we used cloth or paper for various purposes, but that is no longer the case. People are now using plastic or polythene bags instead of paper and cloth bags. Plastic can be made very cheaply, so the purchase price is low, the bag is not easy to leave as we are used to, and many things can be carried in one bag. Another advantage of plastics is that they do not easily participate in chemical reactions and therefore their field of use is huge. Plastic, on the other hand, being a waste material remains the same in the environment for hundreds of years. Plastics are not destroyed by microorganisms but plastic has a bad effect on microorganisms. The first plastic was created in 1885 by an inventor named Alexander Park, consisting of cellulose, plasticizer and other solvents. According to experts, it takes at least 500 years for plastics to decompose in nature, so no plastic produced so far has decomposed in nature.
According to a research report on plastics by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the production of plastics in 1950 was 2.2 tons; in 2015 it reached 448 million tons. 30 percent of this huge amount of plastic produced in 65 years is still in use, 12 percent has been recycled, but 58 percent has no account. Maybe some part of this 58 percent is buried under the ground and some have dumped into the ocean. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 2% of the plastic produced falls into the ocean.
Many of us are still thinking of plastic as household products made of polythene or plastic or cosmetic bottles. What many of us may not know is that plastic is not only used in making cosmetic bottles but also as an ingredient in cosmetics, and its name is Microbeads. Plastic particles of 1 mm or more are usually called Microbeads or Microplastics. Microplastics are also being crated while plastic is broken into micro pieces.
A closer look reveals that products like face wash, toothpaste, body wash, detergent, etc. have the presence of fine-grained ingredients, and these are microbes. After the use of these essential products, it is mixed with the sewage system in rivers, canals, lakes, ponds, and other water bodies. According to the research of the Department of Environmental Science of Stamford University Bangladesh showed that, out of 104 cosmetics products, almost 50% have contained microbeads. Recently the Environmental and Social Development Organization-ESDO conducted extensive research showing that 6628.46 billion microbeads in Dhaka, 1086.18 billion in Chittagong and 212.38 billion in Sylhet are mixed in rivers, canals and other water bodies. The harmful effects of microbeads are directly affecting the fish. ESDO studied about 100 fish and found microbeads in the stomach, mouth, and even eggs of fish. Of these, Rui and Putti fish are the most attacked.
Despite many efforts, the use of plastic and polythene could not be stopped in Bangladesh. In 2002, Bangladesh enacted a law banning the use of plastic bags. According to the Bangladesh Environmental Conservation Act, 1995 (as amended by Act No. 9 of 2002), "All types of plastic shopping bags are prohibited from being produced, imported, marketed, sold, displayed for sale, distributed, transported and used for commercial purposes". Although the law was well enforced in 2002, even after 16 years, law enforcement has not had such an effective effect. According to a report by the non-government organization West Concern, the amount of plastic products used in Bangladesh is about 5 lakh tons. But 9.2 percent of it is recycled; the rest is merged from the reservoir to the river, some part to landfill. According to the Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), 13 feet of polythene layer has accumulated at the bottom of the river Buriganga.
However, plastics have created a new panic of pollution during the Corona period. Due to the coronavirus situation, the amount of plastic waste used once in Bangladesh has increased at an alarming rate. The most commonly used PPEs materials at this time are masks, gloves, hand sanitizer bottles, polythene bags, goggles, and gowns - all made of plastic. After widespread use, these plastics have found a place in soil and water. Fish, birds and other animals are facing losses. According to the Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), 14,500 tons of health-hazardous plastic waste increased during the coronal period from March 26 to April 25, 2020. If these wastes are not brought under proper management, there is a risk of corona and more health risks.
We can get rid of plastic pollution if we find an alternative to it. In addition to various anti-polythene awareness activities, we can free our environment from plastic waste by using jute, cloth, paper bags and thongs as an alternative to polythene and tissue bags, making them readily available and encouraging people to use these bags and thongs.
Professor Dr. Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, Dean, Faculty of Science, Chairman, Department of Environmental Science, Stamford University Bangladesh, Founder and Director, Center for Atmospheric Pollution Studies (CAPS) & Joint Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org