Feature: Young Palestinians Launch Initiative To Reduce Plastic Use In Blockaded Gaza

by Sanaa Kamal

GAZA, Aug 1 (NNN-XINHUA) – Baraa al-Madhoun and Ghadeer al-Saqa, two young Palestinian women from the blockaded Gaza Strip, spend long hours sewing fabric bags, dedicated to their initiative of reducing the use of plastic bags in the coastal enclave.

Together with five other natives of Gaza, they launched an initiative called My Bag, that distributes fabric bags among shop owners and customers with the idea of changing the mindset of the Palestinian society.

In order to avoid “grey and boring” bags, they decorate the bags, made of old clothes or their remains they get from local factories, with drawings or traditional Palestinian embroidery.

“We want to institute a new culture here and encourage people to use our bags instead of those environmentally harmful plastic products that are being consumed and would lie underground for decades before starting to decompose,” al-Madhoun told Xinhua.

According to a 2018 report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the average household waste in the Gaza Strip amounts to 716 tonnes, about 12 percent of which is plastic.

The storage of waste is not the only problem in the Palestinian enclave. Another one is the way the authorities dispose of waste, usually by burning or throwing it into the sea, both “devastating for the environment.”

“We are facing an environmental catastrophe here, especially since we live in the besieged Gaza Strip that has no factories, nor facilities that recycle waste. So what has left for us to do is to try and spread the culture of using cloth bags in an attempt to curb the spread of plastic in the area,” al-Madhoun said.

Determined to achieve that goal and willing to inspire her peers, the young Palestinian woman carries her fabric bags to multiple local markets and malls, offering them to customers there.

“When anyone asks me about it, I answer that it is a modern bag that would help us reduce the use of plastic,” she said, noting her concept was nothing new but could potentially help Gazans overcome many of the health challenges that have been hitting the enclave in recent years.

“Over the years, dozens of epidemics and diseases have spread in the Gaza Strip, partially because of the pollution accumulated here … It altered the environmental landscape and worsened our overall well-being, especially given that Gaza lacks means that would discharge the waste,” al-Madhoun explained.

Al-Saqa, the other leader in the My Bag initiative, believes that the new generation is able to change old bad habits that harm human health.

“Right now, we are a small group of people, but I hope that our initiative will grow to embrace all the Gazan society,” said the young woman.

Ahmed Al-Madhoun, coordinator of the initiative from Gaza city, told Xinhua that they aim to encourage people, especially the young generation, to use cloth bags instead of plastic.

“The industrial revolution has harmed our environmental life and human health because we live in an integrated circle,” the young man said, as he was checking the page of their initiative on Facebook.

“The plastic bags need a lot of years to decompose and burning or throwing them into the sea doesn’t solve the problem. It only makes the situation worse,” Al-Madhoun explained.– NNN-XINHUA