The National, Thursday December 10th, 2015
THE bilum and the plastic bag are both seen everywhere, handled by almost everyone daily and are very handy.
But that is about all that they have in common.
Plastic bags are known to be a major pollutant of global environment and a threat to animal life, especially in oceans.
In this age of global awareness and debate on climate change, many countries of the world have taken decisive steps in banning the use of plastic bags or adapted more eco-friendly production and disposal methods for this very versatile and cheap product.
The announcement this week by the Government to ban the import of biodegradable plastic bags should be welcomed by all who have some concern over what they do to the environment.
The ban should also provide an opportunity for innovative entrepreneurs to trial to produce an alternative to the plastic bag.
One such person is Charlene Gawi.
As head of the recently launched Bilum Promotion and Export Association, Gawi welcomed the Government decision to ban the import of plastic bags.
The association was formed to promote the marketing of bilum bags made by local women.
Its main target is to promote the ubiquitous handy product of feminine art to possible markets outside of Papua New Guinea but there is bound to be demand for the bags if plastic bags become scarce or are not longer sold in the country. However, she is just not sure how big the impact of the plastic ban will have on the use of bilum bags.
To meet the meet an anticipate high demand in short time would be quite a task but Gawi says, “I believe the women will no doubt rise to the challenge.”
The ban on plastic bags does provide this opportunity for the promoters of bilum bags and other eco-bags and it is hoped that Papua New Guineans embrace this major government decision to help save and protect the environment.
Discarded plastics bags and bottles have been an eyesore and constitute the most visible litter in all towns and cities.
Consumers are indifferent to the potential environmental hazard they pose or are simply lazy to carefully discard what they use.
The plastic bag might be handy for carrying stuff but then consumers simply allow the bags to disappear into the wind and water ways.
Residents of all towns and cities are confronted daily by the ugly sight of plastic bag litter and the threat they cause the environment.
The world over, effects of plastic bags on the environment are really quite devastating and have been well-documented.
Even when citizens try to manage their plastic bag disposal wind plays a role in carrying them away as litter.
According to an internet article, with more the 500 billion and possibly as many as a trillion plastic bags in circulation annually this can lead to a catastrophic littering problem. Not only is littering unattractive but it is also a very serious environmental hazard.
One of the greatest problems is that an estimated 300 million plastic bags end up in the Atlantic Ocean alone.
These bags are very dangerous for sea life, especially those of the mammal variety.
Any hunting mammal can easily mistake the size, shape, and texture of the plastic bag for a meal and find its airway is cut off.
Needless deaths from plastic bags are increasing every year, the article says.
Some years it was biodegradable plastics were acceptable as they are easily broken down by organisms to almost negligible particles. However, these supposedly harmless biodegradable plastics are now believed to be a lot more dangerous than previously thought.
Minister Tomscoll said the biodegradable polyethylene plastic bags would eventually release toxic additives into the environment capable of disrupting plant and animal life.
The ban may not go down well with some who make a living from the production and sale of plastic bags but it is a necessary step to protect the local and regional environment which includes the Pacific Ocean we share with our neighbours.
Plastic bags are an ever-present eyesore in urban centres and all must support the Government’s move to clean out the mess.
The ban is a start to that.
And it is time for the humble bilum to come to the
fore and replace the plastic bag.