Polythene bag use keeps rising

Lax law enforcement blamed
Nine years after polythene shopping bags were banned throughout the country, their use is increasing for lack of proper enforcement of the ban, environmentalists have claimed.
Save the Environment Movement president Abu Naser Khan blamed lax implementation of law and irregularities in enforcement operations for the increases use of polythene bags.
However, director (Dhaka division) of the Department of Environment Sukumar Biswas told New Age that his department regularly organised drives against the use of polythene, but it had little effect as people were not aware enough of the bad impacts of polythene on the environment.
The DoE director said they had led a number of operations between January 2010 and January 2011, seized 62,215 kilograms of polythene bags from 441 factories and sellers, filed 422 cases under Environment Conservation Act 1995 and realised Tk 3,150,900 in fines.
‘We have seized many machines from several factories during the drives,’ he added
He, however, admitted that the drives had stopped at one point in the recent years because of the separation of judiciary which removed judicial power from the executive magistrates.
Abu Naser Khan told New Age that whatever enforcement was going on, it was not working.
He said the use of polythene is very visible  in the environment with bags found everywhere such as on streets, dumpsites, drains, ditches, open-fields, roof tops, hanging from trees and from overhead cables, and floating on ponds, canals and rivers.
He said the existing laws were not sufficient to dissuade polythene bag manufacturers, and the existing penalties of Tk 50,000 should be increased to Tk 10 lakh and the maximum imprisonment from 6 months to 10 years.
One reason why polythene bags remain common despite the ban is its good business.
Environment and Social Development Organisation secretary general Hossain Shahriar told New Age that both shopkeepers and buyers preferred to use polythene bags because they were cheap and there were no other cost effective alternatives in the market.
He also said the authorities failed to promote alternatives to polythene.
DoE deputy director of publicity Farid Ahmed agreed that people could still make a profit from selling the bags.
He said the factory owners compensate those who are fined for selling and distributing the banned polythene to keep them in the business.
A retailer from Karwanbazar told New Age that the retailers could make more profit from selling polythene bags compared to other alternative bags.
He said that retailers could make Tk 10 to Tk 15 profit from selling one kilogram of normal quality polythene bags which they sold at about Tk 140.
The sellers, manufacturers and distributors were aware of the ban on selling the items so they sold them secretly, he said, wishing anonymity.
The major polythene bag wholesale markets are at Chawkbazar, Begambazar and Moulvibazar in Dhaka. Theses markets also supply polythene bags to other districts, he said.
At Kaptanbazar, a shopkeeper said there is no other cost-effective alternative for carrying fish, meat than polythene bags, so he preferred to provide them to the consumers.
Environmentalists are concerned about the consequences of plastic bags.
The decomposition process is very slow, and that polythene bags break into tiny pieces and leaks toxic chemicals into soils, lakes, rivers, and oceans.
‘We do not have enough land to dump the polythene bags. We cannot recycle them more then twice and then we have to dump them,’ said Hossain Shahriar.
‘Apart from polythene necessary for packing foods, all other polythene and plastic products should be banned,’ he added.
He suggested that the DoE promote other cost-effective alternatives and campaign against using polythene bags.
Sukumar Biswas said they had taken a pilot project to stop the use of polythene bags. Under the 3R project, three dustbins — ‘Reduce’, ‘Reuse’ and ‘Recycle’ — will be distributed so that people can sort out their wastes. They will also deploy 180 vans to collect waste from households in Dhaka and Chittagong.
He thinks that this project will help them find polythene bags which can then be dumped to a specific area.
‘The project will be launched within a month in Dhaka and Chittagong and if it works properly, it will be started all over the country soon,’ he said.
Before polythene bag production, distribution and selling was banned in 2002, there were about 300-350 factories in the country involved in the manufacture. Now, however, nobody knows the number as their operation is illegal.


Courtesy of New Age

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