Human ingenuity to the rescue
When plastic bags get banned, as they were in Bangladesh in 2002, people look for other options. I’ve been using cloth bags for about a decade now. No doubt you have, too. And Canada hasn’t banned plastic bags yet. But when retailers started charging a nickel per we all thought, er, no. I’ll bring my own, thanks very much.
Truth is, we don’t really need plastic bags, except for putting garbage in, and picking up after the dog. And there, too, we can find different options if we look hard enough. But most people don’t. At least not yet.
But back to Bangladesh. Not a country one would necessarily associate with acute environmental consciousness. But maybe that just goes to show how ignorant one is. Turns out people there have found a way to make “plastic-like” bags with jute.
Jute. The stuff my school bag was made of back in my pretend-hippie days. Holy burlap.
Bangladesh is the world's second biggest producer of jute after India, though the so-called "golden fiber" — named for its color and its once-high price — has lost its sheen as demand has fallen.
Now, however, a Bangladeshi scientist has found a way to turn the fiber into low-cost biodegradable cellulose sheets that can be made into greener throw-away bags that look and feel much like plastic ones.
"The physical properties are quite similar," said Mubarak Ahmad Khan, a scientific adviser to the state-run Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) and leader of the team that developed the new 'sonali' — the Bengali word for golden — bags. He said the sacks are biodegradable after three months buried in soil, and can also be recycled.
Every time humans realize a mistake has been made and we need to mend our ways, someone objects that anything different from the status quo will result in massive inconvenience and higher costs. But you know, humans are pretty good at solving problems. It’s true that in doing so we often create new ones. I don’t know that we’ll ever get it quite right (except for sea salt dark chocolate, nothing is perfect yet), but as long as we keep trying…