Last week, the National Unity Government took a bold and effective step to ban the use of plastic and polythene, including the popular silli silli bags which come easily but do not go away easily. However, there are interested parties with vested interests. They are demanding an alternative.
Environment analysts and responsible eco-friendly citizens believe that the plastic lobby is basically anti-Sri Lanka -- somewhat like LTTE terrorists, who wanted to destroy our country and people. The powerful lobby is trying to do it not with guns or bombs, but with slow painful death caused by degenerative diseases brought on when we consume toxic chemicals.
It is now well known that plastics degenerate in the sea into small particles that resemble fish eggs and are thus eaten by some fish varieties. Thus some of the fish varieties we now eat have plastic pieces in them. This is why we are advised to eat small fish, because larger fish would accumulate more plastic and other toxins, such as mercury. Patient-friendly doctors say this may be one of the reasons why most of us are falling sick more often and hospitals are overcrowded, more so because of the dengue epidemic and the garbage crisis. Thankfully the Government is to put these battles on a war footing.
Plastic chemicals also seep into the soil and are absorbed by vegetables and fruits that we eat, in much the same way the well-known chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) leaks from plastic bottles into our drinking water. BPA is a female hormone mimic, as it is chemically similar to oestrogen, and according to researchers, is the main reason girl children are growing up as early as eight and even six years of age and boy children are having feminizing traits. Imagine a 6-year-old girl having the feelings and urges of a grown woman. What a tragedy. Could these changes also be fuelling the current trend of broken marriages?
What are the alternatives to plastics? There are many responsible and eco-friendly people who use paper bags, such as the “Good Market” at Reid Avenue and the Mount Lavinia Pola. If the people who run a Pola can do it, why not the big supermarkets ?
The other concern is “buth packet” packaging. Here too, the many food vendors at the “Good Market” Saturday fair have shown the way. They sell food wrapped with oil paper in cardboard boxes- simple and eco-friendly.
We need to be shocked to learn that Sri Lanka is the 5th worst out of 193 countries, in plastic waste. We may be even worse in food waste. This is because in most other countries food is served by portion size, so that waste is minimized. We in Sri Lanka have what may be called a buffet style – which means that there is a lot of food left over because the food preparers do not want to run out of food.
About one million families have just one meal a day while a colossal amount of five-star buffet meals are wasted. No wonder Colombo’s former Mayor some years ago said that the Kirillapone “kunu mole” had to be closed down, because our waste was so wet and required too much fuel.
The solution is simple -- just grind up your food and kitchen waste in a food blender and it will reduce to half a bucketful. Then dig a small hole and bury it. It is super food for earth worms. In apartments people insert a 1-inch plastic pipe into each flower pot or pot growing salad greens and trees like murunga. They pour the grinded liquid food waste into each pipe and cover with a cork. Earth worms will do the rest.
The Government has announced it is getting down modern machinery to recycle plastic waste and produce even clean energy. Organic waste is to be turned into bio-fertilizer. Last Saturday July 15 was the United Nations World Youth Skills Day. The world body in a statement called on governments to educate and mobilize the youth for the battle against climate change. It is the youth who will be most affected in the next generation if the world does not win this battle.
Thus the Sri Lankan Government also needs to conduct school lessons on climate change issues including the avoidance of waste of electricity or water and the proper disposal of garbage. As Singapore has done, we need to build green schools here and also green buildings, green hotels and other institutions.