Category Archives: world news

Five ways plastic bags harm the environment

By Katharine Mansell

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 significant energy to manufacture. The stats from the US alone are staggering.

  1. Plastic bags are recyclable and are increasingly being recycled, but the majority still end up in landfill where they decompose for centuries. According to the Welsh Government, they can take 500-1000 years to break down and may never fully decompose.
  2. Plastic bags are finding their way into the ocean, whole and in parts. This causes an immediate threat to marine life by ingestion – for example, some sea turtles eat plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish.
  3. Plastic bags form part of a massive floating island of plastic, one of which is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and is larger than the state of Texas.
  4. Plastic bags are also breaking down in the ocean and entering our food chain, as people eat fish that have consumed tiny organisms which eat particles of the bags along with other plastics. The impacts of the chemicals are only just starting to be understood, but initial research suggests they disrupt hormone balances in the body, which can have devastating effects on human development for example.
  5. Because of the way they are produced, plastic bags are part of what is termed ‘the brown economy’, which basically means anything where its production is reliant on the use of fossil fuels. Although mass production of cloth bags for example are still produced using machinery, they at least have the potential to be manufactured on a smaller scale, which could be more easily made part of a low-carbon, or green, economy.

 

Top image: (cc) Sustainable Coastlines  2010, made available under an attribution 2.0 generic license with credit given to Brian Heagney (www.finsnflukes.com

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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

Algeria’s alternative to plastic bags

By Racha Adel

The widely documented harmful consequences of plastic bags on the environment and human health are dangerous and in constant development.

There is an urgent need to find ways to reduce production, gradually banning it all together and implanting an alternative solution.

In this context, to know what are the possible alternatives that exists in Algeria.   I went to the House of the Environment, is a governmental organization, that focuses on education and training to differents environmental issues, through educational and inspirational talks at schools, campaign in raising general awareness, a weekly creatives activities with the kids inside the organization. It is located in the city of Chlef, where I had an interview with the Manager Mr. Maamar.

During the interview, he mentioned: “I am aware of this problem in Algeria, but we have not yet found definitive solutions to replace plastic bags. In the framework of our activities I  had conducted different sensibilization campaigns since March 2014, both with schools and local authorities to find alternative solutions. I suggest we encourage the manufacture and commercialisation of traditional shopping bag named in Arabic ‘couffin’ which are made of palm trees (doum).  This  plant   is healthy for the environment, and grows in a  wild state in our countryside, so we don’t need to import it from other countries.”

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Photos : 2016, Racha Adel – “  The house of Environment in Chlef, Algeria

In the whole of the Maghreb, and in particular in Algeria, this shopping bag“couffin”exists since many centuries and does not cease to disappear since the arrival of the bags.
See below the photos of the ‘couffin’ :

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Photos : 2016, Racha Adel – “  Tradional Couffin of Algeria

There also this example of Facebook group who are promoting the tradional “couffin” in Algeria. Their Facebook post, has made the tour  on Algerian social media and shared more than a thousand times, showing a poor old man who sells traditional hat and couffin on the Capital. If you are in Algiers and would like to buy your own ‘Couffin ’, you can find Mohamed selling them at Avenue Pasteur, from Sunday to Wednesday.

Couffin- facebook

There are also other alternatives, some of them are:

  • Raise the awareness of citizens on the gravity of the situation and its harmful impact on the environment as a national and global problem
  • Create a tax on plastic bags
  •  Encourage the opening of companies who sell biodegradable bags, with similar subsidies to those existing plastic bag manufacturers

We only have one planet which continues to suffer from the climate change. It seems to Action Against Plastic Bags that there is a growing hope in Algeria for more initiatives like this facebook group and the house of environment will bring awareness among the population for a better friendly ecological future.

 

 

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: