How Using Reusable Grocery Bags Can Save Egypt’s Nature From Deterioration
By Muhammed Aladdin
It takes from 500 to 1,000 years for a single plastic bag to decompose; in other words, to this day, every bit of plastic we ever made still exists somewhere on planet earth, disturbing the well-established balance of nature. And, although recycling plastic has become widespread in Egypt and around the world, most of it ends up either in landfills, releasing dangerous gases, or in the ocean, where it pollutes marine habitat.
Already, the consequences of pollution are evident along the Egyptian eastern coast; from plastic bags to hotels dumbing waste in the waters, the lack of environmental consciousness is depleting marine life and biodiversity from the pristine haven that is the Red Sea. Major natural sanctuaries such as Sharm El-Sheikh, Dahab, and Marsa Alam attract thousands of tourists each year; many of them purchase things that usually end up in plastic bags. These are then scattered through the desert and make their way to the water, threatening marine life.
In fact, because plastic bags resemble a jellyfish in appearance, many sea turtles end up feeding on them, blocking their digestive tracts, which eventually leads to starvation and death. Egypt has five of the world’s seven marine turtle species; and because of pollution, all of them are endangered.
It is not only turtles that are bearing the brunt of unhinged human activities; precious coral reefs are dying while whales are washing up on shores poisoned from devouring too much plastic. If Egyptians do not act now, we will lose this beautiful sanctuary along with its biodiversity; we have to look towards more sustainable solutions.
Fortunately, the government along with local communities are not standing idle. This year, the Red Sea Governorate has banned single-use plastic, although we are waiting for it to be implemented in full effect. Furthermore, grassroots movements such as Bedouin cleanups in South Sinai and Alexandria Turtle and Wildlife Rescue Team are pushing to make a difference.
One underrated alternative to the rising issue of plastic bag pollution is the use of reusable grocery bags. The average reusable grocery bag has a lifespan of more than 700 disposable plastic bags. Do you need more reasons? Studies have shown that one person using a reusable grocery bag over their lifetime would remove around 22,000 plastic bags from the environment. More importantly, and environmental awareness has to be established if we are ever to rescue our nature.
In heartwarming news, the Ghazala supermarket chain in Dahab has decided to ban plastic from their store. Instead, the chain has decided to provide shopgoers with a reusable bag. On a similar note, the Alexandria Turtle and Wildlife Rescue Team is providing people with free non-plastic reusable bags to be used instead.
These heartfelt efforts would be in vain if the silent majority does not rise to the challenge. We are at a turning point in history, the world is struggling with global climate change and our precious earth is in danger. It is time for us to act and do the right thing.