November 25, 2013 - 8:25 AM
PENTICTON - A local man is trying to raise money to bring thin natural fibre bags from Bangladesh to stores in Penticton so shoppers will have an alternative to buying plastic sacks.
Tarik Sayeed started this project, Zero Plastic Bags, to reduce the erosion of the environment by First World consumers.
To pay for his project he needs $20,000 which Sayeed hopes to earn by winning the Aviva Insurance Community Fund competition. Standing between him and a world with less plastic bags are votes and he has until Nov. 25 to get enough to advance to the semi-finals.
If he manages to make money he'll spend it on natural fabric bags made by Bangladesh residents who are out of work following a tragedy in the city of Dhaka. On April 24 the eight-storey Rana Plaza collapsed killing more than 1,000 employees and putting 2,500 survivors out of work. A few of them got together and started making bags and Sayeed wants to bring them to Penticton.
The computer engineer said he hadn't always been environmentaly-minded. The idea of saving the world one bag at a time, came to him when he was visiting his family in Bangladesh. He had walked to a store and bought 12 club soda cans but the clerk refused to give him a plastic bag.
"This is going to rip off," Sayheed had said to the clerk. "Can't you give me a plastic bag?"
"There is no plastic bags in this country," was the response. Bangladesh banned the bags as they were clogging up expensive sewer systems. He complained to the clerk the thin mesh bag would break in the hour-long walk back to his family's place but it held.
During that walk to his family's home in Dhaka, it struck him that Bangladesh, a Third World country, was more forward-thinking than Canada, an affluent First World nation. And he quickly learned his family's native land was not alone as parts of South Africa have banned the plastic bags and the City of Los Angeles will roll out a massive ban starting in January.
"They are doing it," he said. "The movement is there."
If Penticton became the first city in the country to ban plastic bags it could be the role model Canada needs but Sayeed knows an outright ban won't happen overnight. He'd rather give Penticton shoppers a choice in what bags they buy to take home their groceries.
"I want them to give me the option. What we need as consumers is a choice."
It would be better than encouraging more use of plastic bags which can find their way into unwanted places, and take thousands of years to break down.
Sayeed said plastic bags poured out of the stomach of a beached dead whale that was cut open.
"Plastic bags don't stay in Penticton. They go all over the world."
To learn more about the Aviva community competition and Zero Plastic Bags head to the site and check out Sayeed's Facebook page.
To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 250-488-3065, send tweets to @shannonquesnel1 or @InfoNewsPentict.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013