fter having breakfast, I picked up the newspaper and settle down to my second cup of tea, a routine which I enjoy everyday. A letter to the editor about the use (or misuse) of polythene bags caught my eyes. It read: “The government has failed totally in imposing the ban on polythene bags. Although implemented strictly last year, they disappeared only for a few days from the super markets, shops, vendors and stalls. They have come creeping back, slowly and surely, and it seems their days in Pakistan are not over”.

Nodding my head at the inefficiency of our government, I exclaimed angrily, ‘How irresponsible our authorities are! They start these campaigns half-heartedly and then forget about them quickly.’ Folding the newspaper away and feeling very displeased at the inefficiency of the authorities, I started preparing for lunch.

I took out the required items from the refrigerator and proceeded to the kitchen. But a thought froze me halfway! The number of polythene bags I had taken out from the fridge made me feel guilty. Mince, chicken, tomatoes, carrots, curd, coriander and green chillies were all packed in separate polythene bags. And I would be using and discarding a lot more as the day will end. I realised the fact that it would be the same in most households.

So, friends and readers, we are simply not justified in blaming the authorities for not implementing ban on polythene bags strictly. Refusing to take responsibility, we fail to realise that we ourselves are also the culprits… and the victims, as well! Polythene bags constitute serious environmental and health hazards. Hundreds of thousands of polythene bags are discarded daily as a waste. Apart from being unpleasant to the eyes, they fly about with the wind and get stuck to barbed wires, trees and bushes, they choke drains and sewerage systems which, as a result, encourage the spread of mosquitoes and waterborne diseases.

Also, this plastic waste when dumped in fields causes land infertility, and it has disastrous effects on aquatic life when thrown in rivers, ponds or the sea. Moreover, burning polythene bags releases toxic gases that have ill-effects on health, such as aggravating respiratory problems. Recycling them is very costly and when buried they take about a 1000 years to decompose!

By refusing to pay heed to the warnings of the usage of polythene bags by concerned environmentalists, we are playing havoc with our future. Milk, eggs, fruits, pulses rice — every conceivable eatable is sold and bought in polythene bags. The scenario is no better in shopping centres. From the big departmental stores to the vendors on the footpath, every shopkeeper is supplying his commodities in polythene. We bring back home clothes, toys, shoes, books and almost all the stuff that we buy, in polythene bags.

This cursed material of the 20th century has invaded every aspect of our lives. What did people do when the polythene bags were not around or not so common? In my childhood days, I remember that cane baskets or jute bags were used to bring back groceries. These were in a number of sizes in every household and they were used according to the quantity of the commodities required. Milk was bought in steel or aluminium containers and cotton or jute bags were used to bring in meat, fish and poultry. Women usually carried colourful reusable bags when they went out for shopping. But slowly all these environment-friendly options were discarded as we took the convenience of disposable polythene bags.

How easy it is to criticise others and we are always content to play the blame game, putting the responsibility of all community work on the shoulders of the government. We conveniently forget that all of us have to join hands to bring about a change, a change for the better only if we offer helping hands to them.

We should make efforts to create awareness among our friends and neighbours about the harmful effects of polythene bags and give them suggestions for suitable alternatives.

All of us have many pieces of cloth at home, leftovers from suits, faded bed sheets or extra pillow cases. These can be easily converted into handmade shopping bags. Jute and paper bags are also good options, depending on the nature of our shopping.

Any efforts on the governmental level will have minimal impact unless we do our part by refusing to use polythene bags. We must cooperate with the concerned authorities to save our country from an environmental disaster. It may take a little planning to completely eradicate the usage of polythene bags, but by putting life ahead of inconvenience, we can make a difference to the environment. By saying ‘No’ to polythene bags, we can help the government in eradicating this menace, for in doing so we shall be investing on a healthy environment for the future.


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