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Rescue Dear Earth from Plastic Pollution

Columns 2024-04-22, 1:03am

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Prof. M Zahidul Haque



Prof. M Zahidul Haque

Every year ‘Earth Day’ is celebrated on April 22 around the globe reminding us to protecting our dear Earth against man-made and other destructive activities and to care and work towards retaining her natural resources for the future generation. The Earth is our home where we live in. The Earth Day is the biggest civic event in the world with over a billion people participating each year in celebrating this auspicious day.

At present, the Earth is facing a number of challenges including climate change, environmental pollution, deforestation, unchecked consumption of natural resources. Life on Earth depends on several things—land, air, water, soil, etc.

Human beings must conserve these elements for sustaining life on Earth. The theme of Earth Day 2024 is—“Planet vs. Plastic”. Plastic pollution is severely affecting the Biological Diversity and Ecosystem of the Planet Earth.

In modern days, plastics are widely used in our daily life from water bottle to oil containers. Plastics are organic polymers of high molecular mass which are made from natural organic materials, such as, cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil. Polythene or Polyethylene (PE) is the most common type of plastic widely used today.

In our day-to-day life we use plastic water bottles, plastic shopping bags, etc. These are much harmful to environment and ultimately to the Earth and its inhabitants – humans, plants, animals and other organisms. Plastics are non-biodegradable: it can take centuries to degrade.

Plastics are found everywhere, from the human living areas to the deepest oceanic trenches to highest Alpine peaks. According to a statistics, the World produces 272 million metric tons of plastic wastes each year, that is, close to the weight of the entire human population.

Irrational use of plastic/polythene bags is causing an environmental havoc throughout the world including Bangladesh. Plastic/poly bags are contributing to the increase of greenhouse gas emission. These are clogging the drainage system, polluting water bodies plus blocking the nutrients flow/intake by plants on agricultural lands. Domestic animals are getting sick by ingesting plastic wastes. According to an international survey, 10 percent of the used plastics/polythene goes to the sea causing sea water pollution and putting marine life in jeopardy. Appreciating the graveness of the problem, countries around the world including Bangladesh have imposed ban on the production and use of plastic/poly bags through providing alternative eco-friendly biodegradable, re-usable natural fiber bags, such as, jute bags, cotton bags, etc.

Then there are the threats of Micro-plastics! These are synthetic, high molecular weight compounds that have been micronized in plastic particles smaller than five millimeters in size. Micro-plastics have a very low biodegradable rate and therefore remain in the environment and enter the human food chain adversely affecting human health.

Micro-plastics have also made its access to our tea-bags. An international study has found tea bag containing 13,000 micro-plastic particles. Even in Bangladesh, researchers have detected presence of a huge amount of micro-plastic particles in some brands of tea bags.

Plastic pollution is a global concern. The World has to work unitedly to chalk out effective ways and means to control plastic pollution including micro-plastic pollution in oceans. Among remedy measures, banning production and use of plastic bags, bottles, cutleries, etc. have to be enforced plus global initiative need to be intensified to clean plastic wastes dumped in water bodies, oceans. In order to increase peoples’ awareness about the adverse effects of plastic materials, proper education should be imparted.

(Prof. M Zahidul Haque retired Professor and also a former Dean of Faculty of Agriculture at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Dhaka.)