Updated: May 6, 2022
By Sumaiya Binta Ferdous
In this fast-paced 21st century, the usability of plastic is undeniable. Plastic materials are cheap, lightweight, and easy to produce. These qualities have led to a boom in plastic production over the past century. To date, we are already unable to cope with the amount of plastic waste we generate. According to World Bank, Dhaka city alone produces 646 tonnes of plastic waste every day, 468 tonnes more than 15 years ago in this capital of Bangladesh. Merely, plastics have become the persistent polluter of all environmental niches from Mount Everest to the bottom of the ocean. The human species is the sole contributor to this most significant pollutant, which is silently killing planet earth.
‘Zero waste’ advocates for a minimalistic lifestyle for economic and environmental sustainability. In simple terms, a plastic-free lifestyle with minimized waste production. It aims to systematically design, manage and process products to avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste materials, especially plastic, and shift to green products that are biodegradable, non-toxic, and eco-friendly.
Where to start?
Creating no trash is indeed nearly impossible. However, when you choose a zero-waste lifestyle, you pay more attention to how your consumer habits and daily consumptions impact the environment. It is a simple change in consumer habits that is economical and environmentally friendly. Here are some tips to get started with zero waste:
Compost Bucket for the Kitchen and Bathroom: We encounter compostable products every day like paper towels, toilet paper, nail clippings, floor sweepings, dust bunnies, human hair, paper boxes, matches, paper wrappers, cotton balls, food, and vegetable wastes, etc. Composting can dramatically reduce landfill waste.
Switch from Disposable to Reusable: Look for reusable alternatives. Switch from paper towels to cloth towels. Instead of plastic wrap and baggies, use reusable cloth or jute bags and cloth bowl covers. Switch from tampons and pads to reusable menstrual cups. For every disposable item, you can generally find a reusable, sustainable alternative.
Pay Attention to Materials: Materials like wood, stainless steel, or glass can replace plastic. Daily used plastic products can be replaced with wooden and bamboo products, such as wooden toothbrushes, cleaning brushes, combs, straws, and cluttering. Moreover, items made of wood, glass, and metal tend to look prettier in your home than their plastic counterparts!
Always Bring Your Own: Bringing your cloth or jute grocery bags, stainless-steel lunch box, and glass water bottles can go a long way. Instead of buying packaged goods, try to buy most of your items in bulk with a cloth or jute bag. Use glass jars and bottles for pouring flours and powders, teas, spices, snacks, and oil. If you have a coffee drinking habit, get a reusable coffee cup and have it filled up every time. Also, a stainless steel or glass straw that you can reuse again and again. Keep some bamboo cutleries in your purse so that you can avoid plastic utensils.
Biodegradable Plastic Alternatives in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is the second biggest producer of jute after India, roughly producing more than 80 lakh bales over the past five years. Also, seven species of bamboos grow naturally in the forests of Bangladesh. To find a sustainable and eco-friendly packaging alternative, a Bangladeshi scientific research team under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Mubarak Ahmad Khan, Scientific Advisor, Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC), had developed a low-cost biodegradable packaging using locally available natural resources in Institute of Radiation and Polymer Technology, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission. After extensive research for several years, the team developed a new generation of sustainable and biodegradable packaging material from jute-based cellulose. They named it ‘Sonali (Golden) Bag.’
The mechanical properties of Sonali Bag are very similar to conventional poly bags, and the thermal properties are higher than poly bags. Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) has initiated developing protocols and commercializing Sonali Bag under the Ministry of Textile and Jute, Bangladesh. BJMC has also established Jute-Polymer Unite in Latif Bawani Jute Mill, Dhaka. Sonali bags can also be promoted as an alternative to non-biodegradable plastic packaging globally to reduce plastic pollution.
Additionally, local green businesses in Bangladesh like Go Green Bangladesh introduced jute straws, which can be an efficient and eco-friendly solution to minimize the use the single-use plastic straws in restaurants. They also offer glasses, bottles, wooden cluttering, chopping boards, and many other daily necessary utensils made of wood and bamboo.
These local green businesses are growing in Bangladesh. As Bangladesh has abundant natural resources like wood, bamboo, jute, etc., this green business has a high potential. It can promote environmental sustainability with zero-waste movement and contribute to the national economy by growing local business and creating tremendous employability opportunities.
Sumaiya Binta Ferdous is a Youth Empowerment in Climate Action Platform (YECAP) Fellow.