It is heartening that a local company in Bangladesh has been producing biodegradable packaging materials and bags from corn, a rather unlikely source material. Unlike polythene bags, which survive in the soil for several hundred years and have devastating impacts on the environment, these bags are “compostable,” do not contain any heavy metal, and are thus environment-friendly. Apart from the packaging materials, the company has also been producing shirt clips, collar stays, hang tags, and hangers from the corn fibre.
Although polythene bags were banned in Bangladesh in 2002, successive governments have failed miserably to enforce the ban. And it is easily understandable why—there has not been any suitable alternative to these bags all these years. Although the government took some initiatives to encourage the use of jute bags, unfortunately, they could not popularise it.
According to the Earth Day Network of USA (2018), Bangladesh is the 10th most plastic polluting country in the world. Plastic contributes eight percent of the country’s waste, which is equivalent to 800,000 tonnes. Of these, around 200,000 tonnes go into the ocean and rivers, posing a serious threat to the marine ecosystem.
Under the circumstances, if we want to fight the menace of plastic pollution, there is no alternative to encouraging the use of biodegradable bags. Apart from the bags made from other biodegradable materials, we also need to encourage the use of jute bags, which would help revive our ailing jute sector.
Only last week, the High Court directed the government authorities concerned to ban single-use plastic products in the coastal areas and hotels, motels and restaurants across the country. The HC has also directed the government to strictly enforce the legal ban on polyethene. We hope this time the government will comply with the directives. Needless to say, if more companies come forward to produce biodegradable bags and packaging materials for the local market, enforcing the ban will be much easier.