What na­tions are do­ing to stem flow

Con­certed ac­tion in the form of a $ 5 bil­lion an­nual spend­ing on waste- man­age­ment could trig­ger re­vamp pack­ag­ing sys­tems, and let the ocean thrive

The Asian Age - - Discourse - DR SUNEEL PANDEY ( The au­thor is Di­rec­tor, En­vi­ron­ment and Waste Man­age­ment Di­vi­sion, The En­ergy and Re­sources In­sti­tute)

The an­nual per capita plas­tic con­sump­tion in West­ern Eu­rope is re­ported to be 100 kg while Asia con­sumes only around 20 kg per capita. The lat­ter fig­ure is ex­pected to grow in fu­ture as Asia ex­pe­ri­ences rapid eco­nomic growth. In terms of plas­tic pro­duc­tion, Asia pro­duced 45.6 per cent in 2013, ac­cord­ing to Plas­tic­sEurope.

A 2015 re­port by McKin­sey Cen­tre for Busi­ness and En­vi­ron­ment said the ma­jor­ity of plas­tic en­ters the ocean from a small geo­graphic area, and that over half comes from just five rapidly grow­ing e c o n o m i e s — C h i n a , In­done­sia, the Philip­pines, Thai­land, and Viet­nam. These coun­tries have re­cently ben­e­fited from sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in GDP, re­duced poverty, and im­proved qual­ity of life. How­ever, in­creas­ing eco­nomic power has also gen­er­ated ex­plod­ing de­mand for con­sumer prod­ucts that has not yet been met with a com­men­su­rate waste- man­age­ment in­fras­truc­ture.

Co­or­di­nated ac­tion in just these five coun­tries could sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the global leak­age of plas­tic waste into the ocean by 2025. Specif­i­cally, in­ter­ven­tions in these five coun­tries could re­duce global plas­tic- waste leak­age by ap­prox­i­mately 45 per cent over the next 10 years.

Of course, ex­tend­ing these in­ter­ven­tions to other coun­tries could have even more im­pact.

Sug­gested ac­tions that can have a deep im­pact:

Min­imise sin­gle- use plas­tic pack­ag­ing and find sus­tain­able al­ter­na­tive ma­te­ri­als which can be used for longer du­ra­tion be­fore it gets into the waste stream and can be eas­ily re­cov­ered and treated.

Make brand- own­ers who pack­age and sell prod­ucts re­spon­si­ble for the en­vi­ron­men­tally sound man­age­ment of the pack­ag­ing at the end of its life.

In­tro­duce in­cen­tives for the col­lec­tion and re­cy­cling of plas­tic pack­ag­ing to re­duce the amount of waste pro­duced and dis­posed: Bev­er­age con­tainer de­posit re­turn sys­tems are one suc­cess­ful ex­am­ple of such in­cen­tives.

In­crease the value of plas­tics to in­cen­tivise plas­tic col­lec­tion in coun­tries where in­for­mal sys­tems of waste pick­ing and re­cy­cling pre­vail. As has hap­pened with PET in var­i­ous coun­tries where high value re­cy­cling has re­sulted in more price for waste col­lected by the in­for­mal sec­tor

Evolv­ing and im­ple­ment­ing the con­cept of De­sign for Re­cy­cla­bil­ity ( DfR) which would in­volve ad­dress­ing the fol­low­ing is­sues:

De­sign and fab­ri­cat­ing a prod­uct for easy dis­man­tling af­ter end of life ( e. g. au­to­mo­biles are re­quired to be 90 pc re­cy­clable in Eu­rope at the end- of- life)

Pro­mot­ing prod­ucts with mod­u­lar de­signs with longer life where dif­fer­ent com­po­nents can be re­placed/ changed as the need may be so that the prod­uct’s en­try into the waste stream is de­layed ( e. g. Dell com­put­ers)

Con­trol­ling use of dyes and ad­di­tives and look for non- haz­ardous sub­sti­tutes

A con­certed global ac­tion by all coun­tries would be re­quired on an ur­gent ba­sis if sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in marine plas­tics is to be achieved.


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