Plastic everywhere [Archives:2005/906/Health]

December 26 2005

Amel Al-Ariqi
A report of Environment Protection Authority EPA revealed that the domestic waste in 2000 is estimated at 1.266.084 tons in main cities like Sana'a, Taiz, and Aden due to increasing population concentration, while the number was at 970.461 tons in 2000. According to the report, the domestic waste includes food remains, glass, metal objects, electric wires, and hazardous waste such as expired medicines, bactericide or insecticides.

Therefore, communities started complaining of waste in their neighbors, with special focus on plastic bags and materials which are not disbanded naturally and need specific waste containers for discard or recycling purposes. Municipalities have arranged for daily door-to-door collection of garbage, however, residents find it inconvenient that their daily garbage has to wait throughout the day and night until the next morning to be collected, as household consumption takes place throughout the day therefore garbage bags are filled and put outside door steps to be collected the next morning. However, stray cats and dogs, as well as weather conditions do allow plastic garbage bags to remain intact resulting in dirt and garbage spreading in the streets and neighborhoods during the rest of the day and night.

Moreover, not all neighborhoods are lucky enough to get daily garbage collection; several neighborhoods get this service only once every two days or twice a week, despite the Republic decree number 20 in 1999 for the establishment of funds for cleaning and beautifying the Yemeni cities.

Additionally, research indicated several cases where various disposed materials interact with the substance of the plastic and in turn becoming a serious hazard, For example, medicines and disinfectants and cleaning liquids may become poisons that cause skin burns and toxic odors. Similarly, glass, metal and other sharp objects may tear plastic bags and in turn expose cleaning workers and children to cuts and infections.Mohammed, 19, indicated that throughout his work as a cleaner and garbage collector for two years he was hurt by sharp tools or glass that were put in the low quality plastic bags.

With this regard, the government issued two ministerial decrees to identify the acceptable standards for plastic production stipulating that imported and locally produced plastic bags whose density is less than 60 microns (currently they are 20 microns) should be banned. This standard resulted in the protests of plastic factories directors who have no social responsibility and refused to sacrifice a share of their profits to this end through claiming that such demand will need more row material and in turn raise the cost of production. Thus, the two decrees were no longer enforced.

On a related issue, animals in the countryside occasionally suffer poisoning as a result of munching over plastic bags, consequently affecting those who consume meats of such animals.

The plastic pollution is also threatening marine life. According to Dr. Akram Al-Kershi of the Department of Environmental & Earth Sciences, the ingestion of plastic bags “may cause a problem for rare species such as the leatherback turtle