Category Archives: interviews

Are plastic bags Bangladesh’s biggest green ally?

By Katharine Mansell

In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban plastic bags after reports showed how their commonplace littering dramatically worsened terrible floods which hit Bangladesh in the late eighties and nineties, submerging two-thirds of the country under water.

One of the tireless advocates of the bag ban and the man widely credited with helping to bring about this ban is environmental campaigner Dr Shahriar Hossein, who still works now for his charity – the Environment and Social Development Organisation, ESDO.

In a 2011 story from development reporting service IRIN, some critics – including Hossein – have said that use of bag ban use has widely returned due to the alternatives being too costly for everyday use. Some market traders even say their customers demand them.

Episode two of the Green Dispatches podcast catches up with leading environmentalist and Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, Dr. Saleemul Huq, on how he thinks the bag ban is faring nearly 15 years after it came into force.

We also uncover a surprisingly positive role that the plastic bag has played in helping secure a more environmentally aware future for Bangladesh.

You can listen and subscribe to Green Dispatches on iTunes or via the Opinion page.

 

Top image: (cc) SuSanA Secretariat 2011, made available under an attribution 2.0 generic license

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Nigerians divided on plastic bag ban

Plastic bags 1

A heap of plastic bags near a water source. Image Credit: greennigeria.wordpress.com

By Taye Obateru

As seen in the analysis on Nigeria, despite increasing concerns on the menace of plastic bags to the environment, the country is yet to ban its use. Pronouncements by government officials on plans to place a ban have not been translated into concrete action.

Nigerians are, however, divided on whether plastic bags should be banned or not according to opinions sampled by this blog. While many agree that plastic bags pose a threat to the environment, they differ on the manner in which the menace should be handled.

A mixed perspective

A civil engineer, Clement Dusa said the ban was overdue in view of the problem plastic bags are causing for the environment. “We can all see how the environment is defaced by plastic bags; everywhere you go, plastic bags litter the streets and they end up blocking drainages and causing flooding. So I think it should be banned. I remember that at a time, what we knew were paper bags; we should be thinking of returning to the era of paper bags because being biodegradable, they are easier to manage and won’t pose as much threat to the environment as plastic bags.”

An undergraduate, Joshua Oluwatobi, supported his position noting that the negative impact of plastic bags on the environment and on animals call for their ban. He said the stagnant water resulting from blocked drainages contribute to the breeding of mosquitoes thereby worsening the malaria problem in the country. He suggested alternative methods of packaging should be adopted to keep those dependent on plastic bags in business.

Clement Apetan, a teacher, in supporting the ban, argued that using plastic bags had more disadvantages than advantages. According to him, “I know people say it is cheap, durable and convenient to carry around, but should this be at the expense of our environmental wellbeing? Mere looking around our major streets and how plastic bags cover everywhere says it all. Just look down at the rivers or streams whenever you walk or drive over a bridge and see how plastic bags are clogging the water ways. We don’t need to be told that it is time to do something about the situation before it gets worse and creates more problems.”

He believed that introducing affordable alternatives to plastic bags in addition to more enlightenment on proper disposal and recycling of plastic bags should be considered. He said persuasion and enlightenment would work better than coercion adding “making people to appreciate and understand the danger posed by the plastic bags to us as humans and to the environment would, to me, achieve better results.”

For his part, Victor Chinedu, a trader, viewed it differently, arguing that no legislation banning plastic bags would work without providing an alternative because “people are used to it.”

He added: “You and I know that sachet water is very popular among Nigerians because it is an affordable source of drinking water. If you now say you’re banning plastic bags, what alternative would be provided that will still be affordable? Rather than talking about a ban, why don’t we talk about checking the indiscriminate way people throw plastic bags around so that they will no longer pose a threat to the environment?”

To Christiana Emmanuel, a restaurant owner, the plastic bags should not be banned because they provide a source of livelihood for a lot of Nigerians. She said rather than a ban, “plastic bags can be made recyclable so that they can be re-used”. She added that changing to plastic bags that are biodegradable would remove the threat of the ones currently in use to aquatic life.

Lawyer and human rights activist, Iliya Sanda said any legislation banning the use of plastic bags without making the people to appreciate its rationale would not be effective. “People will either resist or violate any such legislation if they don’t believe that it is reasonable. Don’t forget that the livelihood and businesses of a lot of people are tied to these plastic bags; bread sellers, food vendors, sachet water sellers and many others. So if you ban the plastic bags, what would they do? Do you know how many people survive on sachet water business alone?

“My take is that the current efforts to produce biodegradable plastic bags should be intensified so that they can replace the non-biodegradable ones currently in use. The people have a right to survive and they will not give up their source of income easily unless you provide an alternative. We should learn from other countries that have banned plastic bags but which has not been very effective because of smuggling.”

With these contrasting opinions, will Nigeria ban plastic bags? Only time can tell.

 

When will Algeria’s plastic bag use end?

By Racha Adel

Each year, an estimated of 160,000 plastic bags are used globally every second, and 5 trillions are produced yearly,  according to a report of the World count.

However, the majority of the plastic bags are not recycled and have an enormous side effect on the environment and the public health.

According to Algerian statistics, there are 7.7 billion plastic bags used annually, which is approximately an average of 200 plastics bags / per year for each Algerian.

This is worrying news, and more so as the manufacturing sector of the plastic bags counts some 600 companies whose majority had a obtained financial support from the government.

In Algeria, the use of plastic bags is very popular for shopping,  because they are distributed free of charge by the trader which promotes the abuse of citizens. As a consequence, you can find them everywhere in the country; in the grounds, the street, along the rivers and beaches, and even in the forest, changing the nature’s color.

Why are plastic bags a problem for our planet?

While plastic carrier bags use 70% less plastic than they did 20 years ago, they are still made from polyethylene (PE) which is derived from non-renewable oil and require energy to manufacture.
However, their incineration releases carbonic gas and steam, which is a contributing factor to the greenhouse effect. It also causes air pollution and increases the phenomenon of climate change, the major environmental problem facing the planet.

According to a report by  Ecology Center that is a nonprofit organization located in Berkeley, California, that focuses on improving the health and the environmental impacts of urban resident.

The report mentioned:

“In addition to creating safety problems during production, many chemical additives that give plastic products desirable performance properties also have negative environmental and human health effects. These effects include: direct toxicity, as in the cases of lead, cadmium, and mercury – Carcinogens, as in the case of diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)- Endocrine disruption, which can lead to cancers, birth defects, immune system suppression and developmental problems in children.”

As well, in the aquatic environment, they can change the balance of the ecosystems, by preventing the light from penetrating into the water, which is necessary for the photosynthesis of the vegetable production.

As a result, the development of the aquatic plants and the marine animals are destroyed.In another example, it was proven that the plastic bags constitute a danger to the large marine animals, in particular, the turtles and fish, which can kill themselves when they swallow them.

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To investigate more in deep the reality in Algeria and particularly the city of  Chlef that is located 230 km from the west of Alger Capital, I went to to differents places in the city where I took photos and video, and I have observed that the plastic bags are everywhere.

You can see the short piece documentary below: