World Environment Day 2023: Joining forces to combat plastic pollution

Published : 04 Jun 2023 07:15 PM

Every year on June 5th, the world unites to celebrate World Environment Day, a global event aimed at raising awareness about environmental challenges and inspiring action to protect our planet. In 2023, we gather under the theme "Solutions for Plastic Pollution," a pressing issue that demands attention, especially in Bangladesh. As one of the most densely populated countries, with a strong reliance on agriculture and fishing, Bangladesh faces significant threats from plastic pollution. It is essential for us to take concrete steps to tackle this problem head-on.

The Bangladeshi government has already implemented policies and regulations to combat plastic pollution, focusing on limiting the use of single-use plastics—the main contributors to this crisis. For instance, single-use plastics have been banned in coastal areas, and restrictions have been placed on the use of polythene bags in Dhaka city. While these initiatives are commendable, it is crucial to expand the ban to cover other areas and collaborate with businesses and manufacturers to explore alternatives such as biodegradable options. By doing so, we can significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and pollutes our environment.

Recycling and effective waste management are also vital in addressing plastic pollution. Bangladesh boasts a robust waste management sector, and the government can further promote plastic waste recycling by encouraging households and businesses to separate their waste. Additionally, support should be provided to develop a thriving plastic recycling industry. These efforts will not only create new job opportunities but also help mitigate plastic waste pollution.

Education and awareness cam­paigns play a pivotal role in combating plastic pollution, as many people in Bangladesh remain unaware of the detrimental effects it has on the environment and their health. Consequently, education campaigns should be implemented to raise awareness about the issue and encourage individuals to reduce their reliance on single-use plastics. Collaborating with schools and universities to incorporate environmental education into their curricula is another effective way to cultivate a culture of sustainability.

Innovation holds great promise in tackling plastic pollution in Bangladesh. By investing in research and development, the government can drive the development of sustainable and affordable alternatives to single-use plastics. This commitment to innovation will not only present new business opportunities but also address the plastic pollution crisis head-on.

As we commemorate World Environment 

Day, let us renew our commitment to taking 

concrete steps in addressing plastic pollution

 and building a more sustainable future for all

The city of Chattogram, the second-largest in Bangladesh, currently produces a staggering 249 tonnes of plastic waste per day, a number projected to increase to 428 tonnes daily by 2052. Shockingly, 56 percent of this waste remains uncollected. These statistics paint a grim picture of plastic waste mismanagement in Chattogram, and the situation is equally alarming across the country. According to the World Bank, Bangladesh ranked among the top countries globally in terms of plastic pollution due to inadequate waste management. The annual per capita plastic consumption in Dhaka alone stands at 22.25kg, more than three times the national average for urban areas. A business consulting firm's report on the plastic industry reveals that Bangladesh ranks 10th in mismanaging plastic waste, with daily plastic waste in Dhaka soaring from 178 tonnes in 2005 to an astonishing 646 tonnes.

The accumulation of plastic waste poses severe environmental consequences. Plastics are primarily made from natural materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt, and crude oil. When exposed to sunlight and heat, these materials emit substantial volumes of greenhouse gases, contributing to rising temperatures. In turn, elevated temperatures exacerbate plastic waste's ability to generate harmful gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, ultimately leading to climate change. Furthermore, plastic waste that finds its way into oceans, rivers, and other bodies of water wreaks havoc on marine life and ecosystems.

To effectively combat plastic pollution in Bangladesh, it requires a concerted effort from all sectors of society, including businesses, civil society organizations, and individuals.

Businesses have a significant role to play in reducing plastic waste by adopting sustainable practices that minimize the use of single-use plastics. They can explore alternative packaging options, promote the use of reusable bags and containers, and support the development of a circular economy for plastics. By doing so, businesses can not only reduce their environmental footprint but also create new opportunities for growth and enhance their brand reputation.

Civil society organizations also have a crucial role in addressing plastic pollution. They can raise awareness about the issue and advocate for policy changes at the local and national levels. Working with local communities, these organizations can promote sustainable waste management practices, organize cleanup drives to remove plastic waste from the environment and engage with policymakers to push for stronger regulations to curb plastic pollution.

Individuals, too, can make a significant impact by reducing their use of single-use plastics and adopting more sustainable lifestyles. Carrying reusable bags and containers, avoiding single-use plastic packaging, and recycling plastic waste are simple yet powerful actions that contribute to reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and pollutes the environment.

Plastic pollution is a pressing concern in Bangladesh, requiring urgent action from all stakeholders. While the government has taken important steps, more needs to be done to address this crisis effectively. Adopting a circular economy for plastics, promoting sustainable business practices, raising awareness, advocating for policy changes, and individual actions can all contribute to reducing plastic waste and protecting our environment.

As we commemorate World Environment Day this year, let us renew our commitment to taking concrete steps in addressing plastic pollution and building a more sustainable future for all. In the words of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, "We need to work together to find innovative and sustainable solutions to the plastic pollution crisis." World Environment Day 2023 provides us with an opportunity to focus our attention and take action to protect our planet.

Md. Touhidul Alam Khan is the Additional Managing Director of Standard Bank Limited and the first certified sustainability reporting assurer in Bangladesh. He is also a fellow member of the Institute of Cost & Management Accountants of Bangladesh (ICMAB)