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Bangladesh Invents Plastic Bag Alternative; Launches Green Throw-Away Bags

Bangladesh was one of the first countries to ban the use of plastic and polythene bags, in 2002

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A Bangladeshi scientist has found a way to turn jute - shown being used as a tent - into low-cost biodegradable cellulose sheets that can be made into greener throw-away bags that look and feel much like plastic ones. VOA

As countries around the world try to cut down on throw-away plastic shopping bags, Bangladesh is hoping to cash in on an alternative: plastic-like bags made from jute, the plant fiber used to produce burlap bags.

Bangladesh is the world’s second biggest producer of jute after India, though the so-called “golden fiber” — named for its color and its once-high price — has lost its sheen as demand has fallen.

Now, however, a Bangladeshi scientist has found a way to turn the fiber into low-cost biodegradable cellulose sheets that can be made into greener throw-away bags that look and feel much like plastic ones.

“The physical properties are quite similar,” said Mubarak Ahmad Khan, a scientific adviser to the state-run Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) and leader of the team that developed the new ‘sonali’ — the Bengali word for golden — bags. He said the sacks are biodegradable after three months buried in soil, and can also be recycled.

Bangladesh is now producing 2,000 of the bags a day on an experimental basis, but plans to scale up commercial production after signing an agreement last October with the British arm of a Japanese green packaging firm.

bangladesh, green throw-away bags, plastic bags
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Wikimedia Commons

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in March urged those working on the project “to help expedite the wider usage of the golden” bags for both economic and environmental gains. In April, the government approved about $900,000 in funding from Bangladesh’s own climate change trust fund to help pave the way for large-scale production of the bags.

“Once the project is in full swing, we hope to be able to produce the sonali bag commercially within six months,” Mamnur Rashid, the general manager of the BJMC, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Big demand

Bangladesh was one of the first countries to ban the use of plastic and polythene bags, in 2002, in an effort to stop them collecting in waterways and on land — though the ban has had little success.

Today more than 60 countries — from China to France — have outlawed the bags in at least some regions or cities, Khan said. As the bans widen, more than 100 Bangladeshi and international firms are looking into using the new jute-based shopping sacks, Khan said.

“Every day I am receiving emails or phone calls from buyers from different countries,” he said, including Britain, Australia, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan and France.

The bag is likely to have “huge demand around the world,” said Sabuj Hossain, director of Dhaka-based export firm Eco Bangla Jute Limited. He said his company hopes eventually to export 10 million of the bags each month. Commercial production is expected to start near the end of the year, said Rashid of the BJMC.

plastic bags, green throw-away bags
Bangladesh was one of the first countries to ban the use of plastic and polythene bags, in 2002. Wikimedia Commons

Khan said that if all the jute produced in Bangladesh went to make the sacks, the country was still likely to be able to meet just a third of expected demand.

While Bangladesh’s own plastic bag ban is now almost two decades old, million of the bags are still used each year in the South Asian country because of a lack of available alternatives and limited enforcement, officials said.

ALSO READ: UN Organizations Announce “Clean Air Initiative”; Urge Governments Participation

About 410 million polythene bags are used in the capital Dhaka each month, the government estimates, and in some waterways such as the Buriganga River a three-meter-deep layer of discarded bags has built up.

The new bags should help ease the problem, said Quazi Sarwar Imtiaz Hashmi, a former deputy director general of the Department of Environment. “As jute polymer bags are totally biodegradable and decomposable, it will help check pollution,” he said. (VOA)

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Dengue Outbreak Breaks Record in Bangladesh, Hospitals Struggle to Find Space for Patients

Dengue is mostly caused by Aedes aegypti mosquito

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Dengue is transmitted by the bite of the Aedes mosquito that typically attacks during day time. Pixabay

In one of the worst outbreak of dengue in Bangladesh, over 1,000 people, majority of them children, have been diagnosed with the disease in the last 24 hours, according to officials on Tuesday. While over 50 districts across the country had been affected, Dhaka, the national capital, home to more than 20 million people, was the worst-hit city with hospitals struggling to find space for patients, reports said.

Dengue is mostly caused by Aedes aegypti mosquito. “Aedes albopictus mosquito can also cause dengue,” Dr ASM Alamgir, a senior scientist at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told bdnews24.com. “This type of mosquito is common in districts outside Dhaka as well,” he said.

“If the mosquito bites a dengue patient in Dhaka and travels out, the disease can spread to those areas,” he said. Former IEDCR Director Mahmudur Rahman called the situation “a cause for concern”. Eight people have died since January and more than 13,600 patients have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne fever in 2019. Of this, 8,348 cases have been reported in July. In June 1,820 cases had been reported and 184 cases in May, according to official figures.

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Eight people have died since January and more than 13,600 patients have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne fever in 2019. Pixabay

Ayesha Akhter, Assistant Director at the Directorate General of Health Services, called it “the worst dengue outbreak we have seen in Bangladesh”. “We are making sure that all government and private hospitals are equipped to tackle the outbreak. A special section has been opened at Dhaka Medical College Hospital for dengue patients,” said Akhter.

ALSO READ: Mob-Lynching Episodes Owing to Spread of Child Lifting Rumours Back on Whatsapp

The Disease Control Division has sought technical assistance from the WHO to control mosquito population to help curb the spread of the diseases. The Health Ministry has developed national treatment guidelines and aims to raise awareness through advertisement in newspapers.

Several Asian countries are grappling with spread of mosquito-borne diseases, like dengue and malaria with the latter raising fears of a “potential global health emergency”. Multi-drug-resistant strains of malaria is spreading across Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, according to two studies published in the Lancet. (IANS)