Reducing Use of Plastic Products to Reduce Plastic Waste

A pile of plastic garbage dumped in an open dump in a town.
A pile of plastic garbage dumped in an open dump in a town.

By Lokethar

Sometime back I wrote an article in the Global New Light of Myanmar about the menace of plastic waste and how we could reduce use of plastic products and thus reduce plastic waste. Well, I guess nobody took me seriously. In fact, my friends and acquaintances, criticized me for suggesting the “impossible”. Then I wrote a second article titled “Environment over Expediency”, in the Global New Light of Myanmar in August 2018. I suppose very few took that seriously either. The detrimental affects of plastic waste on the environment, both on land and in the seas, and the need for taking action to reduce them, is being more and more accepted by the public the world over.
Nowadays more people in Myanmar seems to have come to the realization of the menace of plastic waste. Efforts are being made by the organizations and the public to reduce use of plastic products. The Municipal Authorities are now turning their attention to better ways of disposing plastic waste. However it is up to the people to reduce the use of plastic products and dispose of plastic waste more responsibly to produce tangible results.
For instance, to repeat what I had mentioned in my previous articles, the public could replace many daily use articles made of plastic with articles made of biodegradable materials. Housewives could revert to the use of marketing baskets made locally of bamboo and cane instead of plastic baskets which pose problems when they have to be replaced. Alternatively shopping bags made of canvas or suitable cotton or jute fabrics could be repeatedly used as was in the past before the advent of plastic baskets and bags. As for eating the daily meals, instead of using plastic wares, ceramic wares made locally or imported are very affordable these days.
The sellers in the markets could reduce the use of packing materials of plastic and revert to the traditional means used prior to the advent of the plastic materials. As for packing materials, using paper bags would reduce the use of plastic bags. Most “dry” products could be “packed” for the customer in paper bags instead of plastic bags. This used to be that case in the “olden days”. Nowadays with e-government in the offing and the increasing use of digital technology, paper requirement for recording and storing data would be much reduced in the future. This would probably lessen the demand for fine office use paper so that raw materials for paper production could be used instead for manufacturing packing materials of paper. Besides forest replantation done systematically, there would be no shortage of soft woods for making paper.
Even in the villages the good old “sint-oh” (large vessel made of clay and coated with a glaze to hold liquids and paste-like products) have been replaced by large plastic containers in many instances. So has the “drinking water pots” made of clay where, for ages they were used for storing drinking water. The water in these pots is kept cool because of the nature of the “clay water pots”. Reverting to the use of “sint-ohs” and clay water pots instead of plastic containers, more so in the rural areas, could reduce the use of many “plastic” receptacles for home and industrial use. It would also reinvigorate our traditional pottery industry.
In the furniture area, instead of plastic chairs and “sofas” of plastic material and imitation leather, use of more wooden furniture should be promoted. In fact we see nowadays on television that local made wooden furniture are increasingly being used in homes, offices and meetings. Well designed Teak or other hard wood furniture for use in Hotels and Restaurants would be more liked by the guests, particularly foreigners. Modernization of our furniture industry by hiring the services of top furniture designers from abroad would enable our furniture manufacturers to produce fine furniture for domestic use and for export. After all “Teak” and other hard wood trees can be systematically planted to replace those used up for making furniture.
On television we see beautiful cane furniture being made as well. Use of cane furniture in our homes would be more hygienic than the “sofa set”, often of foreign origin, that we use. For one, they would be cooler and if the choice is right, be ergonomically suited to our bodies and hence they would be more comfortable. It would also promote our cane furniture making industry.
People often use articles made of plastic to decorate their homes. For such artistic use, what would be better than an exquisite wood carving or a handsome lacquer ware piece made by Myanmar craftsmen? This as well as lovely paintings of Myanmar scenes by famous Myanmar artists and painters or tapestry pieces made by Myanmar craftsman to decorate the living room /drawing room, hallways etc. would add to the pride and dignity of the dweller. It would at the same time support our arts and sculpture industry.
As for disposal of waste, including plastic waste, the public should be more responsible. After all, it’s the public as consumers who are the generators of waste. A clean and hygienic environment is the right of every citizen. It’s also the duty of every citizen to ensure a clean and hygienic environment. Waste, including plastic waste, should be disposed properly by members of the public at the waste collection points of the Municipal Authorities. Irresponsible “throwing” of waste in plastic bags (or otherwise) on to the back lanes should be penalized.
Regarding management of waste disposal including plastic waste, there has been some progress made by the concerned Department of the Municipal Authorities. However efforts should be further enhanced to better collect and dispose of the ever increasing amount of waste. Perhaps more waste disposal containers should be provided in the various Townships of Yangon City. The frequency of collecting the waste should be increased as required. Waste disposal vehicles with secure covers to prevent obnoxious smell and waste littering the streets in it’s wake should be provided to the waste disposal personnel. They should also be provided with proper clothing, preferably of a distinguishing colour, nose masks, arm-length rubber hand gloves and rubber top boots. With charity to all and malice to none.

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