The Problem Of Polythene Pollution
Polythene pollution is everywhere, and the problem is getting worse. For most of us, the problem is seen as one of visual pollution, where plastic bags litter streets, roadways, and in some cases scenic areas across the country.
No one will argue that polythene is useful. The plastic bags we use to carry home food or products are for the most part very light and very strong. Using these bags is not really the problem. The problem, leading to polythene pollution, is the improper methods of disposing of the bags. They've been marketed as throw-away items, and that is all too often what we do, except they don’t always end up in the garbage.
Save A Tree - Polythene wasn't introduced as a bad thing. It wasn't all that many years ago that we started using plastic bags to "save a tree". By using paper bags for groceries, it seemed like we were cutting down trees, using the wood or pulp products on a one time basis, and then throwing the product away. The message was, we were on the verge of making a renewable resource, trees, a non-renewable one.
We've come to realize a couple of things. Because of our forest management practices we can still afford to use paper bags, though we shouldn't be using them indiscriminately. This by the way isn't true in all countries. In some places on this earth, trees to produce pulp are scare. The real value in using paper instead of plastic however is that the former is biodegradable, while polythene is not, unless you want to wait around a few thousand years.
Small Steps - There are small steps being taken. We still use a vast number of plastic bags, and in spite of anti-littering campaigns, and our best intentions, too many of them find their way into places they really don't belong. Many retailers are encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags, usually canvas bags, which will last many years and don't tend to be discarded. Some stores even sell these bags, usually showing their own logo of course, but many times these bags tend to be rather attractive. Other retailers will give the shopper a discount if the shopper brings their own bag. It's usually only a few pennies, but over time pennies add up. The reason for the pennies is not to save the shopper large sums of money of course, but to condition the shopper to use their reusable bags, some of which by the way are biodegradable, although a canvas bag will admittedly decompose rather slowly.
What To Do? - It isn't just the shopping bag that's the problem of course, though it's the bags that cause most of the visual pollution and harm to wildlife. Any plastic container, big or small, that is thrown aside, creates pollution. There's so much of the stuff that we really can't pile it all up and burn it. If we could, untold amounts of toxic fumes would be created. The problem we have then, is you shouldn't throw it away, you can't keep it, but you shouldn't burn it either. We don't have that problem with paper or cardboard.
Is Education The way Out? - The answer to polythene pollution, even if it isn't a complete answer, is education. It's admittedly a hard road to take to try to educate people to stop using something that is so very convenient, and from the perspective of the single individual, polythene doesn't seem to be all that harmful. None of us particularity likes to be told by our government what we can or can't do, and even have a tendency to rebel when something becomes mandatory. Education on the other hand can help people to understand the benefits we all will gain from not using or discarding polythene. If an outright ban isn't in the cards, at least people, on a global scale, might be able to learn to use these products responsibly.