#Article (Archive)

A great concern

Jun 22, 2015, 10:46 AM

 The ban on the use, manufacturing and importation of plastic bags in The Gambia takes effect on 1st July this year – 9 days from today.

There are many important reasons for banning plastic bag use in the country - and it is very essential that such a ban is implemented and enforced - but there is great concern as to what are the alternatives to plastic bags to meeting their countless number of uses in our society.

This concern has to be addressed, because banning plastic bag use in our society will affect not only the thousands of people who depend on or earn their living from the manufacture and sale of these materials; it will certainly also seriously affect users of plastic bags.

Certain food items and/or condiments that are bought from the general markets and supermarkets are best suited to be held in plastic bags.Therefore, if plastic bags should be put out of use then suitable alternatives should be proffered or planned by all and sundry, especially the manufacturers and sellers of plastic bags, and the state authorities, who are both trying to serve the interest of the general public.

We would, however, like to reiterate that the rampant use of plastic bags in The Gambia poses a serious threat to the ecosystem of the country and presents a heartrending environmental eyesore.

The environmental impacts of plastic bag use are just too grave to contend with by any society. They range from danger to animal life (both on land and in sea), to pacific trash vortex (which impacts on marine ecosystem), litter problem, loss of resources, and greenhouse gas impact.

The government statement announcing the ban on the use of plastic bags in the country gives worrying, but cogent reasons why the ban is essential.

It stated: “The indiscriminate use of plastic bags in The Gambia poses a serious existentialist threat to the fragile ecosystem of the country and presents an unwarranted environmental eyesore. Plastic bags are also responsible for suffocation deaths of sea and land animals as well as inhibiting soil nutrients.

“Plastic bags are non-biodegradable and do not decay for hundreds of years and therefore pose a dire threat to our environment. Even when disposed of, they end up in the trash, which then ends up in the landfill or is burnt. Burning them emits toxic gases that harm the atmosphere and increase the level of volatile organic compounds in the air.

“Studies have revealed that an estimated 300 million plastic bags end up in the Atlantic Ocean alone. The environmental balance of our local and international waterways is being thrown off by the rate of plastic bags finding their way into the mouths and intestinal tracts of sea mammals. Where marine animals survive the swallowing of these bags, they are unable to continue with normal digestion and thus eventually die a slow and painful death from toxicity or intestinal blockage.

“Plastic bags are made of various toxic chemicals that are sources of various diseases as well as disorders in humans. In recognition of these grave dangers, the Government of The Gambia will impose the ban on the importation and sale of these items and seeks the strict cooperation of all importers, sellers and users.”

We need not say more, but let’s find alternatives to plastic bags to meet its myriad of uses in our society.

“Of all the waste we generate, plastic bags are perhaps the greatest symbol of our throwaway society. They are used, then forgotten, and they leave a terrible legacy.”
Zac Goldsmith