Polythene bags making a comeback

Polythene shopping bags are slowly making a comeback in the market despite the government ban on its production, marketing and use. Manufacturers of polythene bags are making profits again as shopkeepers and customers especially in the kitchen markets are reviving its use. "We still have demands for polythene bags among most of the customers. We just give what our customers want," explained one fish vendor in the Karwan Bazar kitchen market admitting the fact that the use of polybag is banned. In the wholesale markets of Chawkbazar and Karwan Bazar one kg polythene bags are sold for Tk 90. Most of the kitchen market vendors in the city keep polybags secretly. "We are conducting raids on a regular basis and collecting a lot of money as fine, yet the use of polythene bags did not seem to cease entirely," said Zafar Ahmed Chowdhury, secretary of the environment and forest ministry. "We tried to promote the sales of jute bags as an alternative item but could not attract that many people," he added. Chowdhury pointed out that jute bags are a little costlier than polybags. One of the manufacturers and wholesalers of shopping bags at Karwan Bazar said: "No one usually comes to raid the market. We have our contacts in the police station. We just have to pay them a sum of money on a monthly basis to avoid the raid." He mentioned that police raids are rare in the factories too. Factory owners also have the same arrangements with the law enforcers. "Sometimes we get caught while transporting the goods. But it is not a problem. The same arrangement applies here too," he added.

A homemaker said: "I always carry a bag to the kitchen market but sometimes I need a few polythene bags. It is not possible to mix some of the goods like sugar, grains or perishable items like fish together in a jute bag." "The department stores are using packaging systems. But the system is different in the kitchen markets," said another customer. "I have never come across anyone who was fined for using polythene. In the beginning we heard so many things about the serious effect polythene can have on the environment but not anymore." As a non-biodegradable environmental hazard, polythene has already wreaked havoc on public sanitation. In January 2002, the government imposed the ban on polythene (20-micron or more in thickness) in Dhaka city and then elsewhere.

Maximum penalty for manufacturing polythene shopping bag is 10-year rigorous imprisonment or a maximum fine of Tk 10 lakh or both. The fine for using polythene shopping bags other than export trade is Tk 500.

"The campaign against polythene bags was successful for a few years but the grip is gradually loosening now," said Rizwana Hasan, director, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela). "It has created awareness to some extent. However, alternative items could not create appeal in the grassroots level." "I think the law has enough provisions. A nationwide enforcement of the law is very important to prevent the production and selling of polybags," she added. Source: The Daily Star, January 18, 2006

Top of page
Back to Environment