By Viengdalat Somphet
Plastic is everywhere; in water bottles, containers, in everything and especially in those ubiquitous grocery bags. And it is killing us. What was initially a boon to modern man, has now become, literally, a hangman’s noose as it chokes planet Earth.
Plastic is now a part of our daily existence. Look around and you will see it everywhere. It’s a bet that within a metre of you there will be at least half a dozen things made from plastic. Go into a shop and buy even a pencil, and the salesgirl will put it into a plastic bag. A friend of mine joked, “Buy one plastic bag and they’ll put it into another plastic bag.”
But what is incredibly shocking is that despite all the campaigns for a clean environment, we continue to dispose of our plastic waste, senselessly and irresponsibly. Visit That Luang or the Mekong after festivals, or just about every weekend, and you will see the mountains of plastic bags and bottles thoughtlessly tossed away, making our surroundings filthy in theshort-term and toxic in the longer term. Discarding a used plastic bag or water bottle where one is standing has become a reflex action; almost like breathing.
But that is just Act I in our march towards self-destruction. Estimated to take about 300 years to biodegrade, the plastic then ends up in our sewers, fields, rivers and oceans, snuffing out animal and marine life. We’ve all seen those terrible pictures of cattle and fish choked from ingesting plastic bags. Our actions of carelessly discarding bags or bottles, endanger animal or plant life in the immediate future and our own lives later as it poisons our food chain.
Plastic garbage, when collected by our not-so-efficient municipal services, then ends up in landfills where sometimes thermal decomposition or burning is attempted. But that contributes to an increase in air pollution with its deadly concomitants of respiratory diseases and cancers.
So what can we do to save ourselves from this peril that plastic has become?
We need a three-pronged approach; education, legislation and enforcement. A number of organisations have started trying to create awareness in society. Green Vientiane, for example, an endeavour of Social Environment Research Consultants Asia, uses innovative ideas to bring about behaviour changes at the local level. Laws need to be enacted that curtail the production and usage of plastic. For example, some countries ban plastic bags less than a certain thickness and many shops charge for plastic bags. If shops and street vendors are held liable, plastic wastage will drop dramatically. So, start today with just a small change in your personal behaviour. It would be an irony if plastic, which started as such a boon, should become the death of us.
Green Vientiane is marketing Gracz’s eco-friendly containers and packaging. Made from natural plant fibres these products naturally biodegrade in 6 weeks! Safe for you and better for the environment. More info on: www.gracz.co.th
Small Steps with Big Impacts: There are many ways that we can personally help reduce plastic in our daily life. Take small steps like these the example:
- Avoid plastic and bring your own reusable bag when go out shopping.
- Carry a glass or other non-plastic bottle for your daily hydration.
- Reduce the hazard to animals and marine life by tying plastic bags, especially the ultra-thin ones, into a series of knots before disposing of them.
San Francisco, becomes the first city to ban plastic bottles, encouraging people to use more eco-friendly products. Fines up to $1000 will be imposed on violators. www.globalflare.com
New Delhi has banned plastic bag less than 50 microns thick (thin bags). The reasoning is that thicker plastic bags are easier to reuse. Also, manufacturers and distributors are required to pay for postuse disposal with money collected used for the city’s waste management.