Experts stress fast phasing-out of polythene bags  

Sufficient supply of jute-based or other or environment friendly products are necessary to stop the usage of polythene bags or sacks in Bangladesh, experts said yesterday.

Awareness and market monitoring are also vital for stopping polythene bags, especially the ones that are thinner than 55 micron, to ensure a safer environment, they added. The suggestions came at a meeting at the Department of Environment (DoE) to discuss improvement of jute-based and other alternative packaging that would allow phasing out of polythene from general use, like the packaging industry.

jute goodsRoisul Alam Mondol, director general of DoE, presided over the programme organised by the department’s 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) Pilot Project. Representatives of other industry stakeholders also attended.

The government did not consult the plastic manufacturers before enacting the jute packaging law that made the use of jute bags mandatory for packing paddy, rice, wheat, corn, fertiliser and sugar, Md Jasim Uddin, president of the Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said.

“In one fell swoop, a number of plastic bag manufacturing businesses, which had crores of taka invested in them, became illegal in a day.”

But the losses to the plastic industry are nothing when viewed against the damages to the environmental, DoE’s Mondol said. “So there is no alternative but to phase out polythene bags to safeguard our environment.”

The supply of jute sacks is inadequate, due to which millers are unwilling to use them for rice packaging, AKM Khorshed Alam Khan, president of the Bangladesh Auto Rice Mill Owners Association, said.

But A Barik Khan, secretary of the Bangladesh Jute Mills Association, said a supply shortage is out of the question. At present, the country’s total annual capacity for jute bag production is around 150 crore pieces against the domestic demand of about 50 crore pieces, leaving a wide supply surplus, he added.

Asaduzzaman Asad, director of the Bangladesh Jute Research Institute, showed some models of jute bags that can be used instead of polythene bags; the bags cost between Tk 3 and Tk 10.

Rakhal Chandra Barman, director general of the jute department, and Shohidullah Sikdar, pro vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Medical University, were also present.

-Daily Star