By Faranak Bakhtiari

Thank you! I don’t need a plastic bag

July 11, 2021 - 16:25

TEHRAN – Plastic pollution is getting the whole world in hot water. In Iran, plastic bags have the highest share in the total 4 million plastic waste generated annually, so that, it is time to say no to plastic bags.

Plastic bags constitute half a million tons of the whole plastic waste produced in the country annually. Every Iranian consumes an average of three plastic bags a day, 96 percent of which goes directly into the trash bin.

According to the World Population Review 2021, Iran is ranked 17th in the production of plastic waste.

The report also claims that approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide, and plastic pollution is a global catastrophe caused by humans.

Plastics are materials that have been estimated to decompose for more than 450 years, during which time they are transformed into tiny particles called microplastics (plastic objects with a diameter of less than 5 mm).

These materials are now found even on the highest point in the world, Mount Everest. Therefore, July 11 has been named “International Plastic Bag Free Day” to draw the attention of the world to the environmental damage of plastic consumption.

Plastics remain in the environment for hundreds of years without decomposing, and their chemicals gradually enter the soil and water, in addition to contaminating them, kill animals and eventually enter the food chain.

Microplastics are the phenomenon of modern life today. The average useful life of each plastic bag in Iran is only 12 minutes, while in the past two years, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the world, the use of plastic objects, like gloves and disposable dishes has also increased more than ever.

Microplastics are everywhere

Microplastics have spread to all parts of the world - to land, air, and food supplies, and even to the rain, and researchers have found these tiny particles in the tissues and organs of the human body, and even in the placentas of embryos.

A 2018 study found that microplastics pass through the human gut and that these tiny particles can penetrate the lungs and cause a variety of diseases, including cancer.

Hundreds of studies also show that plastic bags and packaging are the deadliest plastic materials in the oceans, killing marine organisms such as whales, dolphins, turtles, and seabirds around the globe.

Discarded fishing nets, medical and plastic gloves are very deadly compared to other waste that is dumped in the oceans and accidentally swallowed by animals.

According to researchers, swallowing plastic materials is the biggest cause of extinction of marine species and 80 different species of animals in the world, which is a terrible way to die, as it does not happen quickly and is probably not painless.

Plastics entering the oceans to triple in 20 years

A study in 2016 showed that nearly 11 million tons of plastic are released into the oceans, and in 2020 the results of a study showed that the volume of plastics entering the oceans will triple by 2040, and goes beyond the number of fish by 2050.

In order to reduce the spread of microplastics, we need to reduce the consumption of plastics worldwide and move towards the use of alternative products that are environmentally friendly. Having a cloth shopping bag, using recyclable water bottles, avoiding disposable spoons and forks are some of the ways to reduce plastic waste generation.

Payam Joharchi, head waste management office at the DOE, announced in July 2020 that a bill to reduce the consumption of plastic bags, which is mentioned in 6 articles, has been prepared, focusing on incentive issues such as tax exemptions and aiming to reduce the production of plastic bags by 20 percent annually.

It also takes steps towards the production of renewable bags, given the importance of the issue of employment, it is planned to happen in six years.

Hossein Abiri Golpayegani, an environmental activist, also said that in order to reduce the consumption of plastic bags, it is necessary to implement deterrent policies such as increasing the price of plastic bags and making these items less available to the public.

In recent years, many countries have banned the production and consumption of plastics, including Bangladesh in 2002, Bhutan in 2007, Hong Kong in 2007, as well as the UK, and instead reusable and recyclable bags were sold.

Ireland, Taiwan, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium are also seeking to impose heavy taxes and stop the production of plastic bags, or have done so.

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