After seeing through the dreadful negative effects, movements have already been launched against plastic pollution. For instance, a United States law, implementing an international agreement called MARPOL Annex V, became effective on December 31, 1988. It prohibits the disposal of plastics into the marine environment and requires ports to provide reception facilities for ship-generated plastic wastes. More recently, in response to increasing public concern over environmental hazards caused by plastic, many countries are conducting various solid waste management programmes including plastic waste reduction by development of bio-degradable plastic materials.
After seeing through the dreadful negative effects, movements have already been launched against plastic pollution. For instance, a United States law, implementing an international agreement called MARPOL Annex V, became effective on December 31, 1988. It prohibits the disposal of plastics into the marine environment and requires ports to provide reception facilities for ship-generated plastic wastes. More recently, in response to increasing public concern over environmental hazards caused by plastic, many countries are conducting various solid waste management programmes including plastic waste reduction by development of bio-degradable plastic materials. Intensive research is going on for making the bio-degradable plastic. Some bio-degradable plastic materials which are under development include: 1. PHAs 2.Polylactdes 3.Alipahatic polyesters 4. Polysaccharides 5. Co- polymers. PHB is an example of 100% bio-degradable plastic. Approximately a dozen of inherently bio-degradable plastics are now in the market, with range of properties suitable for various consumer products. Besides, biotechnological processes are also being developed as an alternative to existing route or to get new bio-degradable biopolymers. In the mean time, a number of developed and developing countries across the world have formulated land enforced law banning on plastic bag use and other plastic products, such as plastic bag use in Bangladesh from 1st March 2002, plastic bags and other non-reusable plastic products in India, plastic bags in Somalia from 2005, free distribution of single-use plastic bags and disposable cutlery and dishes in Taiwan from January 2003. To discourage the use of plastic products, some countries have already raised increased tax on plastic products including Denmark from 1994, Germany from January 2002, Ireland from March 2002, South Africa from May 2003, and Switzerland from 2002 while some other countries are highly considering a plus tax on plastic products including United Kingdom, Kenya and Australia (Monir and Ahmed, 2005).
Reducing plastic pollution is a little bit complicated job. It needs to make wide sense and awareness of the problem even to the individual level and to act to counter it accordingly. However, here are some control strategies that we can take to reverse the tide of toxic, non-biodegradable pollution so that it will not overtake our planet, the only home of living beings.
v Take no plastic bags from the grocer's self.
v Refuse plastic bags at the check-out counter.
v Don't buy plastic sandwich bags.
v Buy beverages in sustainable containers like glass bottles or cans.
v Use water purifying device rather than to use plastic water bottle.
v Make a habit of thinking about what comes with each thing that you buy.
v Look for and reward Earth-friendly packaging choices, such as- buy greeting cards in paper boxes instead of clear plastic shells. Use pens that refill instead of landfill.
v Remove plastics from your office and business farms.
v Building the habit of keeping plastic out of water ways.
v In case of shopping, use own bags or recycled paper bags.
v Always remember litter generates litter. We should not dispose of plastic in the sewerage system.
v At the beach dispose of plastic and other litter in the bins provided. If these facilities are inadequate, contact the local authority responsible and lodge a complaint. Take your litter back home with you if there are no receptacles on the beach. Pick up any plastic litter you may see on the beach or in the rock pools in the vicinity in which you are sitting or walking.
v In the street never throw plastic or other litter out of your car or drop it on the pavement or in the gutter.Â
Organizational and Institutional level:
v The plastic that can't be recycled not to be produced in the first place.
v Plastic wrappings and bags should carry a warning label stating the dangers of plastic pollution.
v Reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging which is usually immediately thrown away.
v The Fishing community should not throw away waste lines, net or plastic litter in water.Â
v Building a better recycling infrastructure. Only about three percent of plastics are recycled according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
v Recycled plastic can be used to make things like trash cans, park benches, playground equipments, decks and kayaks.
v Special fleece-like fabrics used in clothes and blankets can be made out of recycled plastic bottles.
v Practice and promote proper disposal of plastics in home and at the beach.
National (Government) level:
v All nations should adopt a "zero plastic waste" policy.
v Govt. should accelerate research into alternatives.
v To subsidize the makers of bio-plastics.
v Support and promote support for recycling schemes.
v Draft a law to control the use of plastic products. Ban the use of single-use disposable plastic products (cup, plate, bottle, box and cutely etc.).
v Raise plus tax on plastic products.
v Reduce tax on environment-friendly alternatives to plastic products.
v In special areas, completely ban the use of polythene and plastic products, for instance in parks, by the sides of lakes, government offices and institutions.
v Raise public awareness concerning the harmful effects of plastic products and the benefits of their alternatives through the use of TV, radio and newspapers.
Role of Media and Environ concerned NGOs:
v Launch public awareness building programs against plastic products including seminars, symposium, human chain and workshop etc.
v Re-use of plastics should be encouraged.
v Through the mass media and directly inform of the members of the public and government about the harmful effects of the use of one time disposable plastic products.
v Work with the government to ensure enactment and enforcement of a law banning the use of one-time disposable plastic products, all polythene bags and the increase of taxes on the raw materials imported and used for plastic products.
To size up, plastic pollution is one of the worth-mentioning concerning environmental issues of today to the outside world and a potential threat to Bangladesh as well. Toxic plastic pollutes air, water and soil, kills wildlife, poisons seafood and sea floor, poses serious health hazards and could even exacerbate global warming. Even it could be creating new habitats that don't virtually suit living beings down to the ground. Under these circumstances, the problem of plastic pollution is serious and requires further urgent study. Yet, we should not go without realizing the eternal truth that plastic is not itself a problem.Â
Rather it is more useful, popular and really fantastic because of its some appealing qualities which can be produced with relatively little damage to the environment. But truly problems are with us; problems are improper production process, uses and careless and unthoughtfully disposal of plastics and plastic products to the environment. Now, we all should build up a habit of thinking more in general as conscious consumption is not only good for the Earth but also for us and take necessary steps for plastic waste reduction, reuse and recycling. So let us brood over the issue in our own ways, do the duties and discharge responsibilities normally and ethically bestowed on us from our respective platforms towards a plastic pollution free environment and launch a campaign essential to a green and peaceful future in non-violent way.Â
(Muhammad Selim Hossain is B.Sc. (Hon's) final year student of the Dept. of Geography and Environment, University of Dhaka.)