Future of Biodegradable Plastic in Bangladesh

The long journey to ban plastic bags in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, the move to create awareness regarding the evil sides of poly bags started in 1990 by the NGO organization: Environment and Social Development Organization-ESDO. Through writing columns in the newspaper and going to people ESDO campaigned to make people aware of how the poly bags were destroying the environment. The government of Bangladesh first took the initiative regarding poly banning in 1994. But this initiative didn’t see the light of hope, firstly due to lobby pressure and secondly, because the government was towards the end of their tenure. The next government also tried but failed for various reasons. Later on, a campaign was initiated by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) in 1999, shortly after the devastating flood of 1998. They came ahead with their Sustainable Environment Management Programme (SEMP) to stand against polythene. A task force was formed to frame strategies to phase polythene shopping bags out of the country. The task force advised going under a detailed study regarding the production, marketing and use of polybags across the country. It also recommended observing the socio-economic impacts of poly bags before moving to ban it. With the support of some public leaders, NGOs, and popular demand, the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) appealed to ban polybags in the country. But, as the parliament didn’t pass the legislation, the production, marketing and use of polythene bag continued. The good news came at last in 2002. When the MOEF sent a proposal to the cabinet to ban the production and use of polybags in Dhaka city from January 1, 2002, the cabinet, at last, came to say yes to the proposal. Later on, a vigorous campaign was set and conducted in the markets of Dhaka to dissuade people from using 20-micron thick polyethylene bags for shopping and to motivate people to use the alternatives to polybags instead. And, finally, the polythene shopping bags were banned in the whole of Bangladesh since April 12, 2012

Plastic pollution: Bangladesh perspective

Like other countries of the globe, World Environment Day is observed on June 5 in Bangladesh. The theme of the day in 2018 was “Beat Plastic Pollution”. To save human health, oceans and marine lives, avoiding the plastic products is an emergency for all, especially for the third world countries like Bangladesh. We should rather look for sustainable biodegradable alternatives. For Bangladesh, Plastic pollution has reached in a critical situation. In major cities like Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet, production and use of plastic is going upward day by day. From household to the apparel industry, we are using plastic bags. The pollution created by plastic is moving fast from the last decade. During 2005-2014, plastic consumption in the urban areas of Bangladesh has seen a growth of 169%, whereas the national consumption went high up to 16.2%. Compared to the plastic consumption of Europe, North America and the world, it is one of the worst scenarios. It is estimated by experts that almost 312 tons of single-use plastic products are produced in every month. Poribesh Bachao Andolon (POBA) reports that nearly 2 crores polybags are used in Dhaka alone. ESDO (Environment and Social Development Organization) has released a report where they have showed that Bangladesh produces no less than 3744 tons of single-use plastics per year. Specifically speaking, in Old Dhaka alone, around 250 tons of non-recyclable products like straws and plastic cutlery are sold per month. They have also found that we discard 80-85% plastics after using just for one time. These discarded plastic wastes are thrown not into a dustbin or specific place, but into drains, canals, and rivers. Ultimately these toxic materials find their place in the Bay of Bengal. The report by ESDO further revealed that in every month 97.5 million pieces of plastic products weighing 195 tons are manufactured by 5 companies in our country. Earth Day Network in 2018 has ranked Bangladesh 10th among the top 20 plastic polluting countries of the world. The result of plastic pollution is really alarming for Bangladesh. Every year tons of plastics are thrown into rivers and canals. Soil, air, water, and the surrounding environment is getting extremely polluted and unlivable. Lands that were fertile and arable earlier is getting and barren. Fruits and crops are not growing as before. Water is getting toxic day by day. Fishes and sea plants are in danger. The air polluted with the chemicals is causing respiratory diseases to the citizens of Bangladesh. Children are in the most vulnerable situation. As toxic chemicals from plastic find their way to air, food, and water, they are extremely dangerous for all. Many diseases like cancer, early puberty, birth defects, hormone disruption are growing rampantly in Bangladesh. It is obvious that Plastic pollution contributes to many of these diseases. Plastic also creates a problem when it clogs drainages systems. When water is clogged and stagnant, that becomes the breeding place of mosquitoes which consequently increases the possibility of malaria and dengue. Moreover, the flood of 1988 and 1998 showed us how the sewers and canals of the urban areas were waterlogged for days after days due to the blockage made by polythene bags and plastic products.

Biodegradable plastic: The alternative to plastic bags

Plastic and poly bags are usually made of polypropylene which is a combination of petroleum and natural gas. As plastic bags are very harmful to humans and environments, scientists have discovered the alternative to plastic bags. The alternative is Biodegradable Plastic which is also referred to as eco-plastic sometimes. Let’s explore what Biodegradable Plastic really is. Biodegradable plastic the kind of plastic that can easily be decomposed by living organisms like bacteria. Biodegradable plastics are of two kinds: injection molded and solid. Biodegradable plastics can be made from biodegradable additives, cellulose, cassava, starch, protein, cotton, wood, human and animal waste and, various other renewable raw materials.

Some advantages of biodegradable plastics

1. Biodegradable products are eco-friendly and not harmful to health and the environment. No toxic elements are used here.
2. Shopping bags that are biodegradable dissolve easily in soil and water and dissolve almost instantly in hot water.
3. Biodegradable plastic decomposes usually in 3 to 6 months depending on the microns. Usually, the bags that are made of 30-macron doesn’t take more than 90 days to dissolve completely after being discarded. On the other hand, the bag of 55-micron takes up to 147 days to degrade as it is somewhat heavier.
4. You can safely use them to serve your purpose without destroying the environment, human, animal, and marine lives.
5. No smell comes out of biodegradable plastics.

The future of Biodegradable plastic in Bangladesh

If Bangladesh can produce and export biodegradable plastic, it can earn a huge amount of foreign currency along with the employment of the youth.
Many countries are on the way to ban poly bags. Australia has already banned polybags. These countries will need biodegradable plastic bags to meet the demand. The UK, Australia, the United States, and other countries of Europe are highly interested to switch to biodegradable plastic.
A group of Japanese has recently met with the ministry and told that they need around 100 tonnes of biodegradable plastic from Bangladesh.
Let’s explore the demand, current exporters, and some issues to solve regarding the biodegradable plastic industry in Bangladesh.

Trims Sourcing: the Running Biodegradable solution in Bangladesh

Trims Sourcing is basically an initiative of CEIMCO group which owns two companies (CEIMCO and Trims Sourcing) to produce and promote biodegradable and eco-friendly plastics. These companies are different in their roles. Ceimco works as raw materials manufacturer & importer of Biodegradable products, such as biodegradable plastic resin, Biodegradable ink & Biodegradable adhesive. On the other hand, Trims Sourcing is “biodegradable plastic bag manufacturer in Bangladesh”, such as self-adhesive bag, shopping bag, garbage bag, dog poop bag, etc. Trims Sourcing is first EN13432, ASTM D6400 certified company in Bangladesh. They use EN13432, ASTM 6400 and AS 4736 certified biodegradable ink to print on biodegradable plastic bag to confirm their biodegradable plastic bags are fully biodegradable and compostable in earth.

Sonali Bag: the Upcoming Biodegradable solution in Bangladesh

Dr. Mubarak Ahmad Khan invented Sonali Bag from jute cellulose. Sonali bag is eco-friendly and easily gets mixed with soil. It is regarded as one of the most sustainable biodegradable solutions for upcoming years. On October 02, 2018, Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation and Futamura Chemical Ltd, a UK based company have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a view to producing Sonali Bag commercially. Though this may take some time as necessary machinery need to be imported and installed,  if it really comes true, Bangladesh will go a step ahead to use biodegradable bags made of jute cellulose. It can someday represent Bangladesh in the global market by being exported. Many countries have already shown their interest to import the Sonali Bag. Bangladesh government can take this opportunity to earn foreign currency by offering incentives to the manufacturers to inspire the production of it. By the way, it is a piece of good news that the Sonali Bag is going to hit the local market of Bangladesh by June or July this year (2019).

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