The government, last week, decided to ban the use of polythene lunch sheets and rigifoam lunch boxes from September.
The move comes following weeks of waste disposal-issues and health related ailments due to garbage piling in key areas of the capital. The unprecedented spread of dengue is also attributed to the garbage menace which was addressed only last week.
In this context, the move to ban the biggest cause of pollution and waste is most welcome.
This is not the first time that the government has initiated a fight against polythene. In fact, there have been similar moves in the past where the government had announced that the usage of polythene and plastic would be banned but could not implement it mostly due to practical reasons.
Politicians from the government and the Opposition have on numerous occasions been advised against the use of polythene during election campaigns, and they have been made aware of the mess they cause to the public as they were hard to be gotten rid of. The usage of polythene, plastic, and Styrofoam materials have become a part and parcel of life, not only in Sri Lanka, but in many countries.
In practical terms, it is very difficult to let go of a habit that has been around for decades, especially when it had made life very easy.
Polythene especially has become a huge part of the domestic and industrial sectors of the country. It’s light, it’s easy, but it’s also dangerous.
You cannot get rid of it since it should not be burnt, and it is also not environment friendly. Any move to ban environmentally harmful substance is most welcome. But, the move also has to incorporate solutions to the people.
Banning polythene will not solve the problem. What can be the alternative solution? You can ask the people to go back to paper bags, or start using lunch boxes. What about the commercial and industrial entities? What about those shops and super markets that use polythene every day?
The ban would not work if the government or the authorities do not provide an alternate solution, which is equally, or more, effective and convenient.
This not only applies to the issue of banning polythene, but in matters in general too. You cannot get rid of something without providing an alternate solution. In the past, the reason for authorities to fail most of the time has been due to taking the easy way out. Sometimes the people would not be happy with certain decisions as it would be hard to adapt immediately, after having been used to a particular lifestyle for ages. But those decisions have to be taken if it is beneficial to the people in the long run.
Published in the Nation on July 16, 2017