Pollution: Dealing with Plastic Bags

 

4,000 tonnes of plastic bags are produced in Kenya each month. Recent studies show that plastic bags are linked with environmental damage and higher rates of malaria in East Africa.

POLLUTION
Pollution is when the land, water, or air is made dirtier. This can be done by throwing out waste into rivers, leaving it in heaps on land, or burning it. All of these are very bad for the environment as they can damage nature, human health, plants, and animals. One particular problem in African countries is dealing with plastic, in particular plastic bags.

PLASTIC BAGS
Plastic bags are used to carry items and are usually given out when shopping. In Nairobi, Kenya, 2 million plastic bags are given out each year. The bags are lightweight and thin, so they break easily. Also, they can block drains and gutters and get wrapped around animals, sometimes choking them. Also, they pollute the land when they break into little pieces and sit on soil. In Uganda, the soils are very rich and good for farming. However, waste plastic that has been thrown out can collect on land and stop rainwater from going into the ground. This can dry out the ground and make it not as good for growing crops.

MALARIA AND PLASTIC BAGS
The problem is worsened in locations such as Chitezi (the waste dump for Kampala, Uganda) where the heaps of plastic are massive. The plastic bags themselves can collect water in small pockets. This water then attracts mosquitoes to the bags. If these bags and mosquitoes are near to where people live, malaria can spread. It is important to make people aware of the dangers of plastic bags so that they can stay away from sources of disease.

SOLUTIONS
The issue with plastic bags is being addressed in East Africa, with governments debating whether to ban plastic bags. Discussions involve possibly making thicker bags so that they do not break as easily. The previous thin bags tear quickly and the small pieces are what pollute the environment and block drains. Having thicker bags prevents this.

The most important aspect of using plastic bags is that people are made aware of their dangers. For example, people should only use as many plastic bags as they need and keep reusing them. Also, once they are ready to be thrown away, they should be thrown out far away from villages and towns where people live (so they do not attract malaria to places where people live).

Children are also advised not to play with plastic bags, such as tying them together into a ball to throw or kick around. Also, plastic bags should not be burned because the smoke created is poisonous to humans. Instead of using plastic bags people should try to use cotton or sisal bags and baskets as they are better for the environment.

SUMMARY

  • Use only as many plastic bags as you need
  • Try to reuse them as much as possible
  • When throwing them away, make sure they are far away from where people live
  • Do not burn plastic
  • Try to use cotton or sisal bags or baskets instead

 

NARYAN BRANCH

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