‘Turn off the tap at the man­u­fac­tur­ing stage it­self ’

Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Ex­plorer un­der­scores need to boost waste man­age­ment in­fra­struc­ture

The Hindu - - TAMIL NADU - T.K. Ro­hit

The use of plas­tics can be cut down dras­ti­cally at the man­u­fac­tur­ing stage it­self, but with­out ad­e­quate waste man­age­ment in­fra­struc­ture, the quan­tity of plas­tics en­ter­ing the oceans is ex­pected to dou­ble to 155 mil­lion cu­bic tonnes by 2025, said Dr. Jenna R. Jam­beck, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia.

Dr. Jam­beck, also a Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Ex­plorer, has been con­duct­ing re­search on is­sues per­tain­ing to solid waste for the past two decades, with a fo­cus on marine de­bris.

In an in­ter­view to

in Chennai re­cently, Dr. Jam­beck said there was a grow­ing need to fo­cus on “shut­ting off the tap” up­stream, re­design­ing prod­ucts us­ing al­ter­na­tive ma­te­rial and re­duc­ing sin­gle-use plas­tics. “We also need to im­prove waste man­age­ment in­fra­struc­ture — any kind of waste, whether

Hindu The

it’s plas­tic or not,” she said.

“We are clearly see­ing the re­sults of not man­ag­ing that waste,” Ms. Jam­beck added. The other prob­lem fac­ing us, she said, was the “ex­plo­sion” of on­line shop­ping that was now pos­ing yet an­other chal­lenge to re­duc­ing waste and the means to man­age it.

The onus of cut­ting plas­tic con­sump­tion, she said, was on every­one – the cit­i­zens, who could par­tic­i­pate in pro­grammes (to re­duce the use of plas­tic), the govern­ments, that act as fa­cil­i­ta­tors and, more im­por­tantly, the in­dus­try, which has the re­sources and the abil­ity to de­sign prod­ucts that are eas­ier to man­age in the waste chain.

When asked if com­pa­nies would be will­ing to make such large in­vest­ments to bring in new prod­ucts and al­ter­na­tives, she said, “See­ing the con­se­quences of not mak­ing those choices has mo­ti­vated the in­dus­try to look at not just al­ter­na­tive ma­te­ri­als but [also] al­ter- na­tive ways to de­liver prod­ucts, [and for] re­duc­tion and re­design of prod­ucts.”

The chal­lenge of costs

“It is chal­leng­ing to come up with that kind of up­front cost and that’s sort of a typ­i­cal co­nun­drum with all kinds [of] en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues — the short-term gain, the short-term meet­ing [of] needs and po­ten­tially com­pro­mis­ing the fu­ture,” Ms. Jam­beck said.

De­vel­op­ing economies could ben­e­fit from mak­ing in­no­va­tions and de­liv­er­ing dif­fer­ent prod­ucts, though the onus would pri­mar­ily be on de­vel­oped economies like the United States, which pro­duce twice the amount of waste in the world, to re­duce it, she said.

“Sub­si­dies could be an op­tion wher­ever pos­si­ble and where there is a lack of re­sources to switch to al­ter­na­tives, to en­able peo­ple to use cer­tain types of prod­ucts and help re­duce plas­tic,” she added.

AP ■

Marine men­ace: With­out ad­e­quate waste man­age­ment in­fra­struc­ture, the quan­tity of plas­tic en­ter­ing the oceans is ex­pected to reach 155 mil­lion cu­bic tonnes by 2025

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