OpEd, Politics

Why Banning Importation of Plastic Bottles in South Sudan is a Good Idea

By Philip Ayuen Dot -Nairobi, Kenya

The idea by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to ban the importation of plastic bottles is long overdue. Plastic pollution has become a scourge on earth and is one of the long-lasting forms of pollution that destroy all ecosystems indiscriminately. While plastic bottles are very convenient, the fact that most of them are used only once and then discarded means that the environment then receives thousands of bottles per day. This is made worse by the fact that they don’t degrade, or will do so in over 400 years, years that the planet does not have at the increasing rate of pollution.

Plastic bottles cause a lot of environmental harm which makes banning them right now, a matter of utmost urgency. First of all, they are an eyesore. This is compounded by the inadequate waste management in Juba and other urban centers in South Sudan. When deposited on land, they reduce the fertility and usability of that land, rendering lands that could have been used for other purposes, useless.

Secondly, plastic bottle production and usage contribute heavily to climate change. Plastic bottles are made from waste by the oil industry through a process that releases greenhouse gases into the environment. And as we have seen in the last few decades, regardless of where the greenhouse gases are produced, the effects of global warming and climate change affect all countries, including South Sudan which is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Thus, banning the importation of plastic bottles forces the producing countries to cut back on pollution, saving us from the severe floods and other climate change effects that await us in the future if countries continue polluting the environment.

The other way that plastics contribute to air pollution is through burning. Most of the plastic bottles end up in dumpsites or trash that is burnt. This releases toxic gases into the environment that harm people’s health while continuing to exacerbate the climate change situation.

Thirdly, plastic bottles with time break into smaller particles known as microplastics. Microplastics have now been found in the deepest parts of the ocean and on top of Mount Everest. To make matters worse, microplastics are now finding their way into fish, water and other food that humans consume. Therefore, getting into the body of humans, including into the bodies of unborn babies where they interfere with their development. Microplastics due to their size, can’t be eliminated from the environment, but banning plastic bottles allows us to solve the problem before it gets to that point.

Therefore, alternatives to plastic bottles are the way to go for factories that use plastics. They can go back to how things were before plastics were introduced. This means having glass bottles to package water, juice and other beverages. This means changing the model of distribution where necessary so that the glass bottles are reused again. Coca-Cola, one of the world’s largest plastic bottle polluters had a working model back in the day when their soda was sold in crates of glass bottles that would be reused. It is time for factories to adopt such technologies that don’t kill the planet.

As for the plastic bottles that already exist in our environment, like the ones littering Juba right now, they can be collected and reused where possible and recycled. Nowadays technology exists that can turn plastic bottles into fences, bricks and pavers. This would help alleviate the current situation even as the ministry puts the last nail on the coffin with the long-awaited ban.

The author is a well-trained Environmentalist, researcher, and Independent Opinion writer on environmental issues, and social and economic topics and can be reached via his email: Philipdot57@gmail.com

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