Poison in our hands
According to UN Environmentmore than 8.3 billion tons of different plasticproducts have been produced globally since the early 1950s. About 60% of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or went to sea. Failure to handle proper disposal of plastic garbage resulted into plastic pollution which is now very serious life threat to human being, all kind of animals on earth and in the sea as well.
Plastic is widely used because of its versatility, flexibility, lightweight, moisture resistant, strong, and relatively inexpensive. These qualities encourageend usersaround the globe to use plastic products to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Due to its durability and slow degradation, plastic materials are used to produce different products end up assolid waste. The tremendous attraction to plastic, coupled with an undeniable behavioral propensity of increasingly over-consuming, discarding, littering and thus polluting, has become a major concern.
The production and use of disposable plastic have increased faster than that of any other material. We have also seen a shift from the production of durable plastic towards plastics that are meant to be thrown away after a single use. More than 99% of plastics are produced from chemicals derived from oil, natural gas and coal – all of which are dirty, non-renewable resources. If current trends continue, by 2050 the plastic industry could account for 20% of the world’s total oil consumption.
In Pakistan, if we talk about only Indus River,the longest river in Pakistan which starts from snowcapped mountains in north and after covering all country it ends up in Arabian Sea. All other major rivers are joining Indusbefore it goes to ocean. Most of the heavily populated and industrial cities are situated on these rivers. So, these rivers from Punjab are also bringing plastic garbage including plastic products, plastic bags, plastic bottles, straws and other hazardous garbage.
There are 8,021 production units of plastic bags in Pakistan which are producing 55 billion plastic bags annually. These bags are used only one time and end up polluting land, rivers and drains and its decay takes 100-600 years based on its composition and thickness.
Currently Indus River is carrying almost 164,332 tons different types of plastic garbage which ends up into ocean.Some plastic garbage stuck to cultivating lands through irrigation channels.Plastic dumped into sea and oceans goes into fish food and when we eat fish it enters into our blood stream which is causing some very serious health issues and life threats.
Private sector should be taken on board to invest in recycling plants to ensure plastic collected through waste management is effectively disposed off. Gradual phasing out of single use and non-biodegradable plastic bags by major consumer brand companies and hospitality industry
Hunza is first ever district of Pakistan to put a ban on plastic bags in 2019.According to a notice issued by Hunza district administration, Gilgit-Baltistan Environmental Protection Agency (GBEPA) and Hunza district administration decided to impose ban on use of plastic bags in the district.
Keeping the seriousness and importance of this issue in view and with a proven track record of advocacy, outreach and interaction with policy makers, different government and international organizations, Sustainable Development Policy Institute[SDPI] never miss any chance to talk and escalate this issue at any platform and to create awareness about plastic pollution.
As a first step on plastic pollutionin capital city Islamabad,SDPI submitted its policy recommendations and plan to Senate Standing Committee on Climate Change, in March 2019, which was later submitted to Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) for ban on plastic bags in Islamabad. MoCC has opted these recommendations and announced to put a ban on single use plastic from August 14th, 2019. Ministry also consulted other stakeholders for this ban. Ban would be carried out in Islamabad capital on commercial areas, consumer brands, as well as industries. On violations fines would also be imposed. Recommendations were divided into two parts i.e. short term and long term such as;
Improve waste collection and waste management to check plastic littering which deteriorates soil fertility, clogs drainage system and poses serious environment and health hazards. Involve Capital Development Authority (CDA) to label waste bins for waste segregation and degradation. Separate colour (red) waste bins may be placed at public places, malls, car parking and hotels.
Private sector should be taken on board to invest in recycling plants to ensure plastic collected through waste management is effectively disposed off.
Gradual phasing out of single use and non-biodegradable plastic bags by major consumer brand companies and hospitality industry. As part of their corporate social responsibility, these companies may be encouraged to shift to use of cotton bags/ biodegradable bags instead of plastic.
Create public awareness around harmful and negative effects of plastic use, public awareness messages should be displayed in parks and public places. PEMRA should be taken on board to air messages on the harmful impacts of plastic use under CSR.
Reduction at source by providing alternate to plastic to the industries.
Put a high price/duty on industries and retailers involved in plastic packaging.
Change attitudes and shift behaviors by working closely and creating partnerships with CSOs and other stakeholders to encourage use of cotton bags/jute bags/recycled cotton bags for grocery and shopping.
Government of Pakistan is trying hard to eliminate plastic from federal capital and will implement same in provinces in later stages as PTI has its government in three provinces and implementation of such initiatives won’t be a problem. It has already different programs in place such as clean and green Pakistan under which steps will be taken for waste management even at district level.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.