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Go green and say ‘no’ to polythene

4 October 2017 12:00 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Polythene is being dumped in both environmentally and socially sensitive sites such as in marshy lands, low-lying areas, public places, by roadsides and in the wild. This unhealthy practice has resulted in adverse conditions including water pollution and air pollution, and sometimes, even deaths (recent Meethotamulla dump collapse). 

Waste collection and disposal play a pivotal role in cleanliness and sustainability, with people’s health and conservation of resources being the responsibility of every government. 

Plastic is some kind of ‘superhero’ when it comes to making our life better and easier. People do not really care about how plastic affects the environment. Single-serve beverages and snacks in plastic packaging are an easy grab-and-go option. We know the story when we take a look around. And how about plastic shopping bags you get from the store? Buy it free and throw it on the go. Sri  Lanka uses an approximate of 20 million shopping bags and 15 million lunch sheets a day. Wherever you dump those, polythene will stay for more than a thousand years; killing you slowly but surely.

It is sad to say dumping garbage in public areas is a ritual of many Sri Lankans. I still wonder what the authorities and so-called environmental societies are doing to keep this country clean. Putting an environmental quote on a diary or spending millions on an advertisement does nothing good

Do we really care about our environment?
It was rather sad to find some 200 tonnes of garbage outside Dalada Maligawa immediately after the Dalada Perahera. Also it was reported that more than a million plastic bottles were collected from Sri Pada. If we cannot protect these sacred places, how can we protect other places? Even the BMICH premises is often found filled with heaps of garbage. For instance, after the recent international book fair. Is this the mentality of our so-called ‘readers’? 

People of the country  
The government had planned to reduce polythene usage without even introducing an alternative. Hope the government had conducted a feasibility study before implementing such a strategy. Sri Lankans are used to passing the buck when situations don’t favour them, and in the case of garbage disposal, it is the government that it always at fault. The wise presume banning polythene is unnecessary if they are disciplined enough and know how to use it. 

Sometime back, we had a 3R Policy (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). But now, all developed countries promote Zero-Waste, meaning all waste should be treated as resources for another production processes. But unfortunately we promote ‘no reduce, no reuse and no recycle.’ 

It is sad to say dumping garbage in public areas is a ritual of many Sri Lankans. I still wonder what the authorities and so-called environmental societies are doing to keep this country clean. Putting an environmental quote on a diary or spending millions on an advertisement does nothing good. 

Sri Lanka spends only 0.16% of the GDP on Research and Development -- a very low allocation compared to developed and developing countries. It is not practical to wait till the government comes up with a greater solution than banning. What if we could request both state and private universities to conduct a combined research and arrive at a greener solution for this waste crisis? That is what developed countries do. 

The other negative point is that we wait for the eleventh hour. We procrastinate until the government takes center stage. Lack of right discipline and self-awareness made Sri Lanka a developing country over decades. 

Developed countries and Sri Lanka
Countries like Japan has more serious disciplines in waste management. Japanese are more responsible for their household waste. Disposing trash in public is a social taboo in Japan. Japan has 44 ‘waste’ categories. Waste segregation is much complicated when comparing to others. But self-awareness made it easy to them. It made Japan an incredibly-clean and eco-friendly country in the world. 

Inventing and investing more on renewable or going green has become a trend. Developed countries create more jobs opportunities in the sector of sustainable development. Some countries have autonomous vehicles to collect garbage, while others automate their system. But what do we do? Our garbage collectors hoot when collecting garbage. Isn’t it primitive in all sense? 

Are we going to stay as a 3rd World Country for the rest of our lives? If you think recycling is an impossible and undesirable task, just remember that there is a 7-year-old child in the US who has earned $20,000 in just two years merely by recycling plastic bottles. Wayne Huizenga, well-known American businessman and entrepreneur became a billionaire capitalizing on garbage collection

Are we going to stay as a 3rd World Country for the rest of our lives? If you think recycling is an impossible and undesirable task, just remember that there is a 7-year-old child in the US who has earned $20,000 in just two years merely by recycling plastic bottles. Wayne Huizenga, well-known American businessman and entrepreneur became a billionaire capitalizing on garbage collection. 

Impact of polythene and plastic 
It is recorded that Sri Lanka is ranked within the world with regard to disposing garbage in the sea. This is a grave concern even if we don’t see the impact. It is found that over a million marine animals die from plastic annually. According to a research done on countries that dump plastic and polythene waste into marine environment by International Business Times, over 13 million tonnes of non-recyclable waste is dumped annually into the sea, 80% of the waste was observed to be polythene and plastic from 20 countries including Sri Lanka. We can’t just let go how these plastics and polythene kill our coral reefs. Unfortunately, no one cares about it until the next Tsunami hits Sri  Lanka. The impact and effectiveness of Sea Protection laws need to be changed. Researchers from the Ghent  University in Belgium found fish prefer to eat plastic over food. More than 50 species of fish are likely to eat plastic debris over their natural food.

Further, the researches predict that every seafood lover could be eating up to 11,000 micro-plastic particles a year. But they are yet to find the impact on our health, but for sure if the plastic levels increase so as the risk. As per the World Economic Forum, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. It is surprising to know that plastic particles surface in our own drinking water. Researchers from Orb Media tested samples of pipe-borne water worldwide and found that almost every sample was contaminated with micro-plastics.

As per the study, an average of 80% of tap water is contaminated with plastic fibre. Scientists are yet to establish the impact of these fibers to the human body. However, they did confirm that micro fibres easily absorb toxins than other substances and release it to the body once ingested. So the disaster is very real. 

Supermarkets 
One of the main channels of increasing polythene usage is from supermarket chains. For the sake of drawing more and more customers, supermarket executives separate each and every item with polythene bags. If someone buys 10 items, they would be put in 10 polythene bags. This has to change immediately. 

Supermarkets have introduced thicker polythene (20-micron) bags for carriage considering they would be reused by customers. But unfortunately it has doubled the resin import and hasn’t seen any reduction in waste. I personally believe that people only feel the difference of new polythene bags instead of its use. It is surprising that even supermarket executives have no knowledge on newly-introduced high-density polythene bags. 

It was rather sad to find some 200 tonnes of garbage outside Dalada Maligawa immediately after the Dalada Perahera. Also it was reported that more than a million plastic bottles were collected from Sri Pada

Simple ways to reduce polythene usage at supermarkets 
Educate customers on recycling and reusing by expertise at the outlet itself (like they promote goods), make a discipline - ‘Carrying Your Own Bag,’ discounting (as a percentage of the final bill value) when customers use their own Non-Polythene (cloth) bags, encourage customers to prefer re-usable grocery bags and to refuse plastic bags, encourage buying in bulk, encourage customers to buy reusable and rechargeable items, reduce issuing number of polythene bags for item separation, reduce polythene/plastic food packaging, increase bottled beverages, educate people on eating processed food (good for health and the environment),  encourage people to make squeezed fresh juice or eat fruits than buying juices in bottles, encourage customers to return reusable containers (plastic bottles, ice-cream cups etc…).  

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  Comments - 1

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  • Muhammadh Rasheedh Muhammadh safan Tuesday, 08 October 2019 12:15 PM

    It's a very good effort to safe our environment to the future generation. contact the event we will join with you.


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