It has been three years since a local scientist invented jute polymer, a material that is not only biodegradable but is both water and air resistant, and 1.5 times stronger than polythene. Polythene is a global problem and Bangladesh has been facing the problem of this material choking the life out of our drainage system and canals. Unfortunately, Dr Khan and his team have been left in the lurch in the absence of any policy or budgetary support. The project needs a dedicated budget of about Tk 250 crores a year so that capital machinery can be bought to produce products based on jute polymer in bulk, which would make it price competitive.
Commercial production cannot start primarily because the project falls under the aegis of BJMC, a losing concern. When one looks at the fact that polythene is a global problem where 5 trillion polythene bags are discarded annually, the demand for a biodegradable alternative already exists. We understand that some countries in the West and Asia have been showing interest in such products but until the government creates a separate entity with its own technical manpower and budgeting, there is little prospect of jute polymer or jute polythene becoming commercially viable.
Policymakers would do well to treat jute polymer as a potential export thrust sector that could very well save both the jute sector and help fight the precarious state of our environment. There is no alternative to state patronisation for this fledgling homegrown discovery which deserves recognition by the State and could become a major foreign exchange earner in the near future.