Plastic Bags: A Worldwide Pollution Problem.
For us in the Western world, many problems can’t be seen straight away; there’s always a back up system to make unpleasant situations disappear – at least for one or two generations. But some countries are not as lucky … and most of them are in the so called third world.
Great examples do exist!
After arriving in Bangladesh after a hard trip through India, we quickly noticed that something was different. Especially once we arrived at a local market to buy some fresh fruits. Usually when one buys vegetables, fruits, meat or fish, a plastic bag is the most common thing for packaging. In Bangladesh, you much rather get all of these goods in a simple paper bag, which is made out of old newspapers or old office notes (depending on the bag size). It really looks quite neat as well.
Of course, we were more than interested in the reason for this because – as already said – it was an uncommon way of packaging, especially in a third world country (no offense). After speaking to some students, we were told that the government of Bangladesh imposed a total ban on plastic bags back in 2002. Then, studies of the huge floods between 1988 and 1998 showed, that the major culprit for these flooding’s were discarded plastic bags which choked the drainage system in Dhaka and other large cities. So it might not have been an environmental issue but more a life-saving one. In the end it doesn’t matter. Fact is, plastic bags are banned in Bangladesh.
It was so surprising to us, that Bangladesh is the leading edge on that topic. Up to this day, some other countries followed this great example (like for example Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa and Kenya) and hopefully others will do too.
Others should follow.
Have a look at other countries all over South East Asia (and the world) like Cambodia or Laos. The roadsides are full of plastic bags, which last for decades … look at the markets after a busy day – it looks horrible! Sure, someone will clean it up but in the end all the bags end up somewhere at the town outskirts, ready to get blown away with the wind in all direction. Or they litter it straight into the river, which leads into the ocean. And then we get huge plastic gyre like the one in the North Pacific, better known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. That can’t be the right way to go, can it?!
So yes, Bangladesh has a lot of other issues to tackle but the plastic ban is a great example into the right direction.