Drive to rid world of plastic bags in spotlight

The drive to get rid of plastic bags and end single-use plastics, due to the harm they do to nature, is taking the global spotlight on Saturday on the occasion of International Plastic Bag Free Day.

People around the world will take part in online campaigns aiming to raise awareness on the long-term effects of plastics on the environment and human health as well as joining challenges such as ending the use of plastic bags, as part of the International Plastic Bag Free Day, an annual and global initiative marked on June 3.

While environmentalists and concerned citizens offer to look for more eco-friendly alternatives instead of using plastic bags, reusable and recyclable options are also encouraged to minimize the negative effects.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the occasion of the day, Recep Karaman, the head of the Street Waste Collectors Association, said that following the beginning of the free plastic bag ban in 2019, there is a significant drop in the plastic bag waste rate in the total amount of waste across Turkey.

"The ratio of plastic waste among the total waste in Turkey is 15% while nearly 10 million tons of plastic was produced in the country," he noted.

The charge of plastic bags drives people to also using their stuff more carefully as well as reducing waste rate amounts, Karaman added, recommending people to use more environmental-friendly options instead of plastic bags.

"It would be better to use paper bags instead of plastic bags, considering the effect of plastic bags on nature," he said, and stressed that free plastic bag bans contributed to raising environmental awareness among people.

Amid the downtrend in plastic waste, however, he noted that the waste of hygiene and cleaning products was on the rise for a short time at the beginning of the pandemic in Turkey.

"COVID-19 has also changed the way people see the recycling industry. The packaging for pharmaceuticals and all health-related needs was provided with packaging that we collect and recycle," Karaman concluded, thanking the Environment Ministry for its support to the waste collection and recycle industry.

We protect environment by collecting waste

Ramazan Gezer, a street collector in the capital Ankara, also shared his experience on the plastic waste in the streets.

Referring to regulations about waste, he said that as collectors, they no longer come across too much plastic bag waste on the streets.

Defining his role as an environmental cleaner, Gezer said street collectors also make an important contribution to the country's economy due to the recycling of waste they collect.

"In addition, we also protect the environment by collecting waste and these plastics, which are likely to mix with the soil and nature (otherwise)," he added.

It takes many years to decompose plastics in the environment, Gezer stressed, saying they also play role in preventing possible dangers, caused by waste, that pose risks to human health as well as environmental health.

"If there is an increase in the use of plastic, it will not be easy to collect, it will spread to the environment and our country will become a garbage dump," he added, asking: "Why should plastic and garbage be included in the soil when you can live in clean nature?"

He suggested that people should resort to alternative ways of use rather than using plastic in general and plastic bags in particular.

"Street waste collectors pick up 75% of the waste across the country and it is a fact in Turkey," he concluded, and noted: "For the future of our children, we both protect our environment and contribute to the economy of our country."

Plastic waste not only endangers the livelihoods of those relying on marine resources, but it also causes a raft of health issues for people who consume seafood infested with toxic micro and nanoplastic, according to a report by the UN Environment Program in March.

Due to environmental concerns, many countries around the world, including China, Kenya, Germany, Brazil, and Turkey, have taken steps towards reducing the use of plastic bags through bans or taxes in place./aa