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22 January, 2020 11:33:38 AM
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Promote jute products to reduce the use of plastic

Our scientists have made a remarkable breakthrough by inventing jute polymer
SHEIKH IRAJ
Promote jute products to reduce the use of plastic

Jute is becoming more popular as developed countries especially the Western ones are opting to use natural fiber products. From Bangladesh's perspective, to grab shares of the local and international jute market, we need to more innovative and diversification of jute products. That means jute products with new ideas, designs, promotion, and branding should be given top priority. If we look at the major shareholders of the global jute market, we will find India is leading the way. Their efforts in marketing jute products are very much visible on the internet and in the field of diplomacy.
Since Bangladesh is working on becoming more digitalised in every sector, opening up more online promotional doorways for jute products can be given more significance. Product diversification, use of the latest pieces of machinery, providing different facilities like cash incentives and loans to locals to small jute private sector entrepreneurs is essential to find optimum success in the sector. However, such talks, requirements or requests from the jute traders, manufacturers, government officials, and media will not come to any use, unless the youth and social activists come forward and work more with this sector.  

In recent years we came across the news that our scientists have made a remarkable scientific breakthrough by inventing jute polymer. This particular jute product can replace the use of plastic bags, given that correct policies and stern actions are implemented. This jute polymer is eco-friendly and can serve as the same purpose as polythene. It's called ‘sonali bag’, and it's made out of waterproof material.  We all are, especially those who are little more conscious about our environment knows how the use of non-biodegradable polythene bags causes irremediable damage to our environment. This article targets to motivate people to buy more jute products and come to a possible solution in preventing the use of plastic bags and polythene. Of course, many of the top counties in the world allow the use of plastic bags. Nevertheless, they have a more modern system in collecting plastic waste and recycling it. Moreover, their citizens are more aware, disciplined and their collective concussions about the environment seem to be better than us. These are facts and rather than denying them, we should be more open-minded and learn from them, at least for the sake of our environment and for our future generation.  

According to a report published in this newspaper considering the threats of the polythene bags, about 61 countries around the world, including China, France, India, and Denmark, have so far banned its use. Thus the '‘sonali bag’' is the best alternative we have to stop the widespread use of plastic bags, not only in Bangladesh but around different countries in the world. In the beginning, this jute polymer was highly publicized, however as time went by we can see very little use of it. From local bazaars to shopping malls, to food courts and even in the chain super-shops hardly the use of ‘sonali bag’ can be seen. We even came across reports that countries like the USA, Franc, and Germany are becoming more eco-friendly and talks of exporting our ‘sonali bag’ made of jute cellulose were on the cards. Sadly we are still coming across the reports that ‘sonali bag’ is still on the way to mass production. The concerned authorities ought to look into the matter with more concern in order to ramp up the speed of the mass production as early as possible . Dr. Mubarak Ahmad Khan, team leader of 'Sonali Bag Project' and scientific adviser of BJMC earlier told The Independent, "Bangladesh produced about 92 lakh bales of jute in 2018, "If we use all the jute we produced last year to make polymer bags, we can meet only one-third of its global demand".

Reports suggest that United Nations Environment Programme, survey indicates an estimated eight million tonnes of plastics end up in the ocean – equivalent to a full garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute, each year, globally. In terms of awareness building, we can follow what Thailand did. Thailand is one of the largest contributors to ocean pollution. The Thai government started a campaign to remove their use of plastic bags by 2022, their TV channels are displaying the negative effects of plastic bags. As only through effective marketing we can expect to see more growth in exporting jute-made goods. Nowadays through research, we can produce diversified multiple jute goods and export to various countries.

According to Export Promotion Bureau, we are exporting jute and jute-made goods to countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Egypt, Italy, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Gambia, Germany, Haiti, India, Ireland, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan South Africa, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, the USA, the UK, Uganda, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Data provided by the (EPB), shows Bangladesh has exported jute and jute products worth USD 511.73 million in the first half (July–Dec) of FY2019-2020.

Today jute is used in international branded automobile industries like Volkswagen, Toyota, and Ford. French company NATUP Fibres has developed the technology to make some motor parts with Bangladeshi jute, these are wonderful news.

However, all these contradict what Dr. Mubarak Ahmad Khan told The Independent, at least when it comes to ‘sonali bag’. He said: "We need financial support and new better management. Bangladesh Jute Mill Corporation simply can't take full advance of this particular jute product. Even private companies can come forward and work with this product. We need funds, modern scientific equipment. I am just a scientist I can't and not suppose to give management or branding guild lines. Every day I am receiving calls from clients from foreign countries, but we are yet still have not started commercial production. I am preparing a project proposal that I wish to submit to the PM regarding the ‘sonali bag’ research and commercial production."  

Effective management and funding are required to ensure the commercial production of ‘sonali bag’ starts as early as possible. If such lucrative jute products like ‘sonali bag’ which already got so much positive response from different countries, is facing different obstacles one can't help but double the positive figures that we are regularly fed with regarding different other jute products. This means we require more transparency in the jute industry.   

The High Court (HC) recently ordered the government to ban single-use plastic products mainly in the coastal areas within one year to curb pollution. The court also directed the government to enforce a ban on polythenes strictly across the country through proper monitoring.

The judiciary is right and we appreciate the order. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the government is a system to govern people and it's us who have to change our actions and mindset. Otherwise, we will only come across news and actions which are ineffective and the dreams and promises associated with the jute products will become nothing but a fairytale.  

The writer is a journalist working for The Independent

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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