Environmentalists have called for the issuing of government circulars banning the use of polythene  and plastic in State institutions. They also called on the scientific academia to come up with alternatives to polythene and plastic.

During a recent survey conducted by the Department of Zoology and Environmental Management of the Faculty of Science of the University of Kelaniya into the biological diversity in the Negombo estuary    and the Muthurajawela marsh, they discovered dead frogs, specifically of the Indian green species. The frogs consume invertebrates such a jellyfish, insects and tender leaves.

Senior Lecturer at the Department, Dr. U.P.K. Epa said that the frogs when dissected were found to have swallowed what are commonly called lunch sheets.

These lunch sheets may have contained food residue such as particles of fish or meat. Frogs are also incapable of distinguishing between the identity of polythene lunch sheets and the jellyfish they eat. Polythene is ingested by fish, birds such as flamingos, albatrosses and seagulls, aquatic mammals, aquatic invertebrates and turtles. Once polythene is in the digestive system, the polythene does not get digested in the gut and it then clogs the digestive tract making the animals unable to defecate.

“This is the first time in Sri Lanka and in the world that we are seeing the problem of frogs ingesting polythene,” said Dr Epa. When polythene gets degraded, additives to polythene such as disphenol and phthalate (which are added to polythene as stabilizers to give it its sheen and are highly toxic and carcinogenic) are released. Disphenol acts as estrogen does in the human female and causes issues in the reproductive system and function in children and also cancers.

“The University of Kelaniya has banned the usage of polythene and plastic by way of a circular issued since September 1 this year. We do not any longer purchase water bottles either. We have 16 canteens and we used 50,000 lunch sheets a week. Monthly, the figure was 200,000. Even when engaging in protests, students put up their slogans on cloth,” Dr. Epa explained. RLJ