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Plastic Bags in Use in Brunei

Today, people use plastic bags mainly because of their easy availability and
conveniences. On the other hand, looking from different perspectives, plastic bags are an
increasing problem on the world’s environment. They are certainly affordable but in a
sense, disposing them is remarkably difficult. People around us are not fully aware of the
hazards and pollutions that are being caused by these plastics if they are not properly
being disposed of. People do not seem to be concern for their own health and even the
environment’s status that we live in. On getting rid of them, they either throw it away or
just burn it. It is an easy access of disposal. As for recycling aspects, it is not mainly
available and people are not well informed of its existence and advantages.

Problems with plastic bags:

As much as it is useful in our daily lives, plastic bags are actually a nuisance. Every year,
around 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. That is a lot of bags, so many that
over one million bags are being used every minute and they are damaging our
environment (Jacobsen S). Critics of plastic bags says plastic bags use up natural
resources, consume energy to manufacture, create litter, choke marine life and add to
landfill waste. The environment protection and heritage council in Australia identified
four main areas of concern in problems regards to the use of plastic bags. These are:

- plastic bag littering, and associated indiscriminate waste disposal and consumer
behaviour
- resource consumption issues, including reduction, reduce and recycling
- plastic degradability issues relating to littering and resource use
- Social issues, community education and awareness, and consumer perception.

The concerns profound on littering are significantly affecting the marine and aquatic
environment too, as these aquatic life can be threatened through suffocation,

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entanglement and ingestion. Other than that, plastic bags are unsightly as waste and can
block gutters and drains which will cause storm water problems.

How big is the problem world wide?

Plastic has been a world wide problem since its existence in the late 19 th century.
Countries around the world has their own problems concerning with the matter of plastic
bags. From the research paper done by Smith S., it can be noted that in the developing
countries, for instance in Bangladesh, serious flooding resulting in major loss of life has
been linked to plastic bags blocking the drains and sewer system and some littered to the
stream. The same problem was also occurred in Bombay. Large fines and the suspension
of trading for one month apply if retailers are caught using plastic bags. As well in the
case of Australia, they consume about 6.9 billion plastic bags per year. According to
Australia’s department of environment, an estimated 49.6 million annually end up as litter
which most of these go to landfill. And in Ireland, the widespread concern on plastic bags
causes a very visible litter problem in the rural environment.

In the marine environment, plastic bag litter is lethal, killing thousands of whales, turtles
and other sea life every year. Most of the marine life had mistaken plastic bags as food.
Some of the marine life and birds get entanglement with fishing lines, fragments of trawl
netting or plastic packing straps and it causes severely injuries and even death to the
animals (Lowy J.).

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Problems relevant to Brunei:

The issues of plastic bags in Brunei are not yet being stressed upon. We used 3 methods
for our plastic bags based study, which are case study on our homes, survey
questionnaires (appendix 1) and observations (appendix 3).

On the case study, the average plastics that we used or obtained per week are at a range of
5 to 10. And plastic bags collected at a range of 50 to 150 bags were found in our homes.

As for the survey questionnaires, we collected data from 59 people of different age sets,
professions and status, which 35 of them are female and 24 are male. From the data, it
was found that:-

Plastic bags are habitually used on average of 5 per week. If we extrapolate this data to
the Bruneian population, that is about 1780000 plastic bags being used on average per
week. And about 640800 are thrown away and 90500 are being burned (see appendix 2).
This gives a picture of how much pollutions are being produced with plastic bags every
week in Brunei. If plastic bags are burnt, the fumes can cause cancer and if the toxic
fumes are being inhaled during burning it may cause hormonal imbalance and sex
behavioural orientation of new born (Brijesh). Half of the plastic bags are obtained from
shopping at shops and the other are from Bruneian functions and buying from shops for
their own use.

From our case study and the survey questionnaires, the problem with plastic bags does
exist to other countries. Although most of the respondents tend to reuse the plastic bags
for lining rubbish bins, storing and carrying things and some reuse it for shopping, thus
confirming its usefulness and easy availability, their nuisances are still there. If disposing
them improperly, some of them get into the sewer system and rivers which causes
blockage, could suffocate children and are lethal for animals which they mistaken plastic
bags as food. On disposing of plastic bags issues, about 73% agreed that people in Brunei
are not disposing them appropriately (appendix 3). Rising littering problem are definitely

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sore sights. On supporting the issue, 68% does not even know there is a recycle centre for
plastic bags in Brunei. Although many know there are recycling companies, they are not
sure where they are. On the case of using alternatives other than plastic bags such as
paper bags, about 53% agreed with it as well as the choice to stop shops from providing
plastic bags and to bring their own shopping bags. In contrast to propose laws on
stopping the usage of plastic bags, only a slight 15% of the respondents agreed. As for
using biodegradable plastic bags, about 90% agrees with the proposal but as we know,
only one type of photodegradable plastic bag is sold in Brunei.

From the survey we have conducted, it can be concluded that the Bruneian community
are not well aware and are not concern about the environment from their actions
concerning with plastic bags issues. As for encouragement and not being able to recycle
their plastic bags, their concerns on reducing the usage are still not being practiced and
addressed upon.

References:

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- Abdulla, N. (2004), Plastic Bags, Retrieved September 3, 2006, from
http://www.socialpages.com.pk
- Brijesh. (2006), Burn Plastic Bags-Good for health, retrieved September 3, 2006,
from http://www.sitemeter.com/stats.asp?site=s15brijesh
- Dee, J. (2006), Plastic Bags – Just say “No!”, Retrieved September 3, 2006, from
http://www.planerark.com
- Jacobsen S. (2005), Plastic Bags Pollution, Retrieved September 3, 2006, from
http://www.googobits.com/articles/1604-plastic-bag-pollution.html
- Lowy, J. (2004), Plastic left holding the bag as environmental plague, retrieved
September 3, 2006, from http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/world
- Smith, S. (2004), Plastic Bags, Retrieved September 3, 2006, from
http://www.parliment.nsw.gov.au
- Spivey, A. (2003), Plastic Bags-Prolific Problems-Recycling, Retrieved
September 3, 2006, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0CYP/is_4_111