- Endorse move but stress need for seamless transition to alternatives
- Urge need to listen to viewpoints of stakeholders across all levels before implementation
- Say one way to kick off smooth transition would be carrying out move in phases
- Environment Ministry last week announced its decision to ban sachets by 2021
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam
The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) manufacturers in the country at the outset have endorsed the government’s decision to ban single-use sachets, an effort towards conserving the environment but stressed the need for an all-inclusive approach, one that would allow a seamless transition to alternatives.
Sri Lanka’s leading FMCG manufacturers that cater to the nation’s personal care and nutrition needs, Unilever, Nestle Lanka and Hemas, affirmed their commitment to the decision that was initially proposed by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA).
However, the need for a reasonable time frame was stressed, to make the switch to be sustainable and long-lasting.
While sharing their willingness to come on board the initiative, the FMCG giants expressed concerns on the execution process.
Hemas Manufacturing Managing Director Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne stressed that it must be understood that the transition cannot be achieved overnight and requires a well-thought-out strategy.
Pointing out that the journey towards this effort must have minimal implication on all stakeholders involved, including consumers, retailers, manufacturers and investors, Silva urged the authorities to take a holistic view and consider the viewpoints of the stakeholders across all levels, before implementation. “One way to kick off a smooth transition is to carry out the move in phases. In the first phase, the government should look to incentivise the industry, so that they are encouraged to embrace the move. In the second and third, it can impose a deadline on making the transition,” proposed Silva.
He noted that if done right, Sri Lanka could reach the ambitious goal in about five to 10 years but failing to take the right steps would lead to “never-ending debates” and the initiative being stalled.
Reflecting similar sentiments, Unilever Sri Lanka said it recognises the need to work with the government, NGOs, retailers, waste sector and businesses, to help develop infrastructure and increase consumer awareness about waste management to stimulate recycling of plastic.
“Plastic per say is not bad because it makes daily necessity products available to consumers in a convenient and affordable manner and these products tend to provide hygiene or nutrition benefits. What is important is its safe handling and disposal,” Unilever Sri Lanka Marketing Director Beauty and Personal Care Nilushi Jayatileke told Mirror Business. She stressed the need to increase recycling and recovery rates and reduce the impact of littered or landfill waste.
“It is also pertinent to mention that managing plastic waste is a collective responsibility, where apart from the producers, plastic manufacturers, it is necessary for the urban local bodies, citizens and central government to play their respective roles,” Jayatileke added.
Meanwhile, Nestle Lanka shared that it is the company’s vision to work towards making it possible, where ‘none’ of its packaging, including plastics, ends up neither in landfill nor in oceans, lakes and rivers. Although not commenting directly on how the company would accommodate the ban, Nestle Lanka highlighted the efforts taken by it towards reusing and recycling its packaging materials.
“The exact specifics of the proposed regulation have not been officially shared but we will of course comply with the government regulations when notified.We are committed to making 100 percent of our packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025. Currently, more than 70 percent of our packaging in Sri Lanka is recyclable and we are working towards our 2025 packaging commitment,” a Nestle spokesperson said in an email. In the recent weeks, single-use plastics came under fresh focus with the CEA having submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers a memo that emphasised on banning sachet packets containing shampoo and hair gel, plastic straws and plastic water bottles.
The proposal was immediately endorsed by the Environment Ministry, which last week announced its decision to ban sachets by 2021, as the three layers of plastic make it difficult to recycle.