At the Daily Mirror, we believe that climate change is one of the greatest threats that we, as Sri Lankans, will face in the future. Therefore, we intend to provide our readers with local and international content with the objective to educate and inspire. We would also like to learn from our valued readers about any ongoing initiatives in making Sri Lanka a more sustainable nation.
We aim to explore sustainable ways of living that have the most positive impact on not just our natural environment, but also for humans and animals.
While topics such as global warming, pollution, and inequality are confronting, we believe it's time the media stopped shying away from these issues and became an active participant in finding solutions - and we hope you will join us.
“Despite everything we see in the news, there are many who think the problem is not theirs,” said Savera Weerasinghe, founder of Ananta Sustainables, a company which sources and supplies compostable packaging to the domestic food and beverage industry. Together with Radhika Philip of R. Parker Publishing (Pvt) Ltd., she seeks to find a solution to Sri Lanka’s growing waste problem.
Ananta Sustainables provides consultation services to enterprises that are keen to transition away from single-use plastic. Savera soon discovered that the biggest hurdle in their journey had been to make more people and corporates understand that there is a real need for alternatives for plastic. “In running community workshops around plastic consumption and waste, we saw a lack of understanding and awareness on waste generation. There was a great need for education and awareness amongst most communities in the country. Despite everything we see, with rising global pollution levels, and even closer to home, wildlife dying of plastic consumption and the collapse of Meethotamulla, many still think the problem is not theirs,” opined Savera.
- 60% of Sri Lanka’s trash is organic or wet waste which decomposes in nature
- The huge mountains of waste that we see are a risky ‘build-up’
“But we found that the public, of all ages and backgrounds, are eager to learn,” observed Radhika. “We like narrating stories, particularly fact-driven ones from across the island,” she said. Together they found that just like beautiful films and books changed an individual’s perspective, so did fact-based videos on particular issues. They have, in the past, produced national interest videos on a non-profit basis aimed at particular issues. “Yet, while we could reach many – over 4 million people in 40 countries – there was no way for citizens to be involved in the change. Waste is different. Waste management is something we can all do better. It made sense for Savera and I to combine resources and use the media to promote waste solutions as opposed to just cover the problem,” Radhika explained.
Savera and Radhika initially held a conversation about the strong network of peers working towards sustainable waste management, prompting them to establish a network of citizens. The network would include activist groups, sustainable businesses, development partners and State institutes working towards better waste management practices in Sri Lanka, named Waste Action LK or WALK. “All these companies and groups, eager to make changes, sparked the idea of WALK. There are so many people who care and who were doing their own little bit in their own way, some big, some small. Now, we can collaborate under the common goal of sustainability,” Savera recalled.
This January we begin rolling out our educational media. WALK’s 2020 agenda includes a campaign tackling the controversial topic of supermarket packaging including the current indiscriminate spread of breakable single-use plastic bags
The WALK network imparts knowledge, combines interests and expertise and works together to develop packages and services that can help the global waste crisis, specifically by making an impact on the ground, in the area closest to home. WALK supports beach clean ups, petitions against pollution, media that promotes better waste practices and more; with an understanding that we need to address waste from the SOURCE. WALK’s strategy is to inform and enlighten using media as an influencer to support its initiatives and policies. WALK provides compliance guidelines, waste research data and tutorials to the corporate sector, lobbying for more businesses to incorporate sustainability into their work mandate.
Radhika recalled how they spoke to people about establishing a waste management coalition of sustainable enterprises where citizens work together. “We found support with both State institutions and development partners. We have a chance to communicate this message to remote hamlets and a wide demographic, thanks to social media traction,” she said.
WALK Home Waste Plan
“For many of us, it’s not that easy to change our already busy lives to make room for better waste practices. It becomes a task – one that is often delayed as day-to-day life takes over. The idea behind the WALK Home Waste Plan was to make it easier for Colombo homes and small businesses. We’ve done the thinking for you and we will do the installation too, and give you an easy tutorial on what you have to do,” they said, when asked about their initiative.
Four of WALK’s network partners came together to make this possible, to provide an easy, positive experience for the customer, they added. “We deliver and set up your compost bin, we set you up with three months of free subscription to recycle collections. We also plant four trees in your name and before you know it – your home is making a big impact on our country’s waste crisis!” they explained. WALK Home is a partnership between Biobin (for the compost bin), Eco-Friends (recycle collection app), Earth Guardians Sri Lanka (paying it forward with four trees planted) and Ananta Sustainables (online shopping cart and payment gateway).
According to Radhika and Savera, the initiative has the potential to make a huge impact on waste management. They note that over 60% of Sri Lanka’s trash is organic or wet waste which decomposes in nature. “The huge mountains of waste that we see are a risky ‘build-up’ because the waste is mixed. Mixed waste is food waste, combined with plastics, paper, electrics and so forth. That’s a toxic pool of festering garbage, which also releases methane, causing explosions,” Radhika explained. “If we start separating our waste and start using WALK Home to compost all our wet waste including food waste, then households will be able to reduce their waste by 60%. Most of the remaining waste can be sorted and recycled,” said Savera, adding that WALK Home empowers households to action via sustainable home practices to manage our national waste crisis.
Meet Savera Weerasinghe and Radhika Philip, two women seeking solutions for Sri Lanka’s waste problem
Fighting for our future
WALK recently received project funding to produce three short-films on single-use plastic in Sri Lanka. They are excited about the opportunity to show how people are working together to reduce the country’s waste footprint while at the same time raising awareness. The films will be licensed free of charge to Sri Lanka’s mainstream media.
Through the WALK social media site trashtag.lk, the general public is encouraged to draw attention to disturbing, dangerous or careless waste practices, particularly in relation to the prolific distribution of single-use plastic in Sri Lanka. Using the crowd-sourced methodology of social media ‘Tagging,’ trashtag.lk is able to directly connect the waste situation on the ground to the source of the problem, all the while developing an interactive map of waste in Sri Lanka.
When asked of their future plans, they excitedly noted that there was much to do. “This January we begin rolling out our educational media. WALK’s 2020 agenda includes a campaign tackling the controversial topic of supermarket packaging including the current indiscriminate spread of breakable single-use plastic bags,” they underscored. The WALK campaign includes online educational information on health hazards of disposable plastic bags. “We hope to be fair, but also tell the truth with regard to the sharing of responsibilities that we see is needed here. And there’s a network behind us that is already walking the talk on this and keen to share expertise, establish self-regulation guidelines and teach better practices to retail staff,” they remarked.
While they also have a national programme for schools in the works, they plan to support better trends via both fashion and art. “We have more than we can manage and as long as the public continue to support us, we think we can keep bringing people together to WALK the talk,” they concluded.