Plastic waste management: Very important for sustainable development

Mahmud Kamal Anamul Haque

People are using a lot of things to make life easier. Undoubtedly, plastic is one of them. Plastic waste is increasing with the use of plastic. Plastic waste management can be an important tool in sustainable development. Moreover, plastic waste management has been given more importance in waste management, as plastics remain in the environment for a long time in an indigestible state. The per capita consumption of plastic in Bangladesh is only 5 kg whereas the average consumption of plastic in the world is about 20 kg. These plastic wastes include bottles, rice bags and plastic bags. Proper management of plastic waste in Bangladesh, like in all other developed countries, will solve the serious environmental impacts that pose a threat to human life and various animals and increase the rate of creation of this plastic waste. Therefore, it is important for the waste management authorities to have accurate and detailed research information on the amount of waste being generated in the cities of the country and the type of waste being generated. At the same time, due to the lack of financial and management capacity, it is becoming easier to plan and implement the city’s waste management properly. Different methods need to be adopted for the management of plastic waste in sustainable development while maintaining the balance of the environment.

In addition, plastic and polythene wastes are mixed with water, which is detrimental to its quality as well as adversely affecting biodiversity in the water. The amount of plastic and polythene in rivers and seas is increasing. Extensive research on marine resources is currently a major threat to plastic waste.

A 2012 study found that about 175 million tons of waste plastic floated in the ocean, threatening about 800 species of marine life. If plastics continue to grow at sea, the coral reef will pose a serious threat to the future. According to marine scientists, the second biggest threat after rising sea levels is plastic waste, which increases the risk of coral reef disease by 20 times.

Moreover, plastic is one of the major causes of waterlogging in Dhaka city. Groundwater reservoirs are not being filled properly due to the increase in plastic and polythene wastes at the soil level. On the other hand, the demand for water is increasing day by day. Therefore, it is thought that this kind of management of plastic waste is risky for the future.

After the waste is finally collected, transported and removed, it is disposed of at a landfill site. The capacity of the space used for the waste accumulated in the piles is running out day by day. It is important to follow some rules for landfill. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has outlined a number of policies in this regard. According to the 1991 policy, there will be no reservoir within 30 meters of the landfill site, no drinking water tube well within 180 meters and any house, school or park within 75 meters. Landfilling is therefore considered extremely wasteful as it requires a lot of space and wastes energy contained in chemical components and plastics. It is not easy to increase the landfill site for waste management due to population growth and development. In places where landfills are made for plastic waste management, this in turn makes it impossible to make good use of land and there plastic waste can easily be carried by water or carried to the sea in flood waters. Since most of the plastic waste remains in the soil, they are degrading the quality of soil and water. In addition, plastics can release pollutants (phthalates and bisphenols) into the soil and surrounding environment once they have been eroded in the landfill.

When plastic is used as fuel, some energy is returned. In fact, the amount of energy that can be produced from one pound of plastic is almost equal to the energy produced from waxing coal and fuel oil. So making fuel from plastic waste is one of the significant waste management. However, the process of plastic fuel can release hazardous substances into the atmosphere which will have a detrimental effect on the environment and health. For example, PVC and halogenated additives mix hazardous substances with plastic waste and release them into the environment when used as fuel. Therefore, before using plastic waste as fuel, it is important to select well and develop scientific technology. The heat generated by making fuel from plastic waste can be used to generate electricity by turning turbines.

Recycling can be one of the ways to manage plastic waste. Plastics are usually derived from petroleum or natural gas, the amount of energy stored in this plastic waste gives more stored energy than any other waste. If this project is implemented in municipalities and city corporations across the country, the waste will be greatly reduced. As a result, it will be possible to meet the energy demand of the country by producing electricity and gas in a scientific way. Also some of the waste can be incinerated for plastic waste management. According to a study, it is possible to reduce about 90 percent of waste by burning it. But this process must be in a scientific way.

Many times plastic waste can be recycled and the recovered materials can be used a second time. Although recycled plastic is the most effective way of waste management. However, due to difficulties in collecting and sorting plastic waste, this method is not being fully utilized. The Government of Bangladesh has undertaken various projects for the management of plastic waste. At the same time, due to the recycling of plastics at the private level, a lot of waste is being reduced.

Biodegradable plastics can play a key role in waste management, as they are biodegradable plastics. Biodegradable plastics have the potential to solve waste management problems, especially when packaging cannot be easily separated from organic waste. Biodegradable plastics can be completely metabolized by organisms to carbon dioxide and water, but biodegradable plastics can release metals into the environment.

Conservation of organic and inorganic wastes is one of the important issues for plastic waste management. A policy has been formulated to separate waste from primary level. With economic development and population growth, people’s participation at all levels of government is essential to prevent plastic waste. At the same time, in order to maintain the balance of the environment, a project has to be undertaken to convert plastic waste into resources. However, there is still no law in Bangladesh for the management of plastic waste. Therefore, in order to protect the environment of the country, it is necessary to enact laws for the management of plastic waste and implement it quickly. In order to develop waste management, first of all, it is necessary to increase the rate of waste collection in a proper manner, utilize efficient and improved waste transportation system and use of waste management technology that does not pose a threat to public health. In addition, if the country’s municipal and city corporations can make plastic waste management effective and sustainable, it will make a positive contribution to the economy; At the same time we will get a clean country. The main advantage of sustainable waste management is that it reduces the impact on the environment, improves air and water quality and contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Therefore, there is no alternative to sustainable plastic waste management to transform Bangladesh from a developing to a developed country and to protect the environment.

Author is an Associate Editor,

The Environment Review

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