Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS FEATURES - By Ka­man­thi Wick­ra­mas­inghe

We still don’t have proper re­cy­cling sys­tems and peo­ple are still learn­ing to seg­re­gate garbage the proper way

Throw­ing away a tof­fee wrap­per or a straw is still a usual habit among many of us. But when that tof­fee wrap­per or straw are two items found among some eight mil­lion other pieces of plas­tic, then it’s high time that we opt for change. Glob­ally, around eight mil­lion pieces of plas­tic find their way into the oceans every­day. Around the world, one mil­lion plas­tic drink­ing bot­tles are pur­chased ev­ery minute, while up to five tril­lion sin­gle-use plas­tic bags are used world­wide ev­ery year. The level of mi­croplas­tic pol­lu­tion on land is thought to be up to 23 times the level of con­tam­i­na­tion in global oceans. In such a back­drop, the need to ad­dress the is­sue of sin­gle-use plas­tics is im­me­di­ate and timely. Hence, in view of World

En­vi­ron­ment Day, an in­ter­na­tional cam­paign is be­ing or­gan­ised world­wide to highlight the im­pact of sin­gle-use plas­tics.


The In­ter­na­tional cam­paign group, A Plas­tic

Planet – a non-profit so­cial im­pact move­ment for change, is aim­ing at inspiring peo­ple across the world to par­tic­i­pate in one of the big­gest vis­ual sur­veys ever con­ducted on the plas­tic cri­sis. Hence, A Plas­tic Planet is ask­ing peo­ple to take a photo of the one thing they want to go plas­tic-free and post it across so­cial me­dia plat­forms in­clud­ing Face­book, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram with the hash­tag #one­plas­ticfree­day. Ma­te­ri­als could be any­thing from bot­tles to magazine wrap­pings, car­pets, tooth­brushes, a plas­tic drinks stir­rer or any­thing else. Yes­ter­day, the com­pre­hen­sive global re­sults were pub­lished as part of a land­mark vis­ual re­port into the frus­tra­tion caused by un­nec­es­sary plas­tic across the Amer­i­cas, Asia, Europe, Africa and Aus­trala­sia. The ma­jor new vis­ual re­port is set to shed new light on the ex­tent of the global plas­tic cri­sis, iden­ti­fy­ing hot spots around the world where de­ci­sive change is most needed.


As a par­tic­i­pant of this cam­paign Otara Gu­nawar­dene, Founder of Em­bark and Otara Foun­da­tion in­vites ev­ery­one to get ac­tively in­volved and shift to al­ter­na­tives. “We need to shift to us­ing al­ter­na­tive ma­te­ri­als and make it a part of our life­styles,” said Gu­nawar­dene while speak­ing to the . “The is­sue is mainly con­cen­trated around sin­gle-use plas­tics. We still don’t have proper re­cy­cling sys­tems and peo­ple are still learn­ing to seg­re­gate garbage the proper way. These ma­te­ri­als even­tu­ally end up in rivers and the ocean, caus­ing threats to marine life. Through cam­paigns such as the #One­plas­ticfree­day peo­ple will get a chance to pick a par­tic­u­lar piece of ma­te­rial that they want see go plas­tic free, click a pic­ture of it and post on so­cial me­dia. Grad­u­ally, peo­ple can then make it a habit to re­duce the use of plas­tics.”

“We need new laws and en­cour­age busi­nesses to in­tro­duce eco-friendly op­tions,” she added. “The pub­lic could carry their own water bot­tles, re­us­able cof­fee cups and bags to set a trend and make an im­pact. If poly­thene bags are re­placed by cheap hand­wo­ven cloth bags in su­per­mar­kets, even those em­ployed in bag busi­nesses could gen­er­ate a monthly income. But in this case the con­sumer also has to look at things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently and makeup their minds to buy a cloth bag and keep reusing it. Most Euro­pean coun­tries have suc­ceeded in re­duc­ing their use of plas­tic to less than 1% and that is a great achievemen­t.”

She also said that the younger gen­er­a­tion needs to take ac­tion be­cause they will even­tu­ally take over. “They do get in­volved in beach cleanups but those are tem­po­rary mea­sures. The next morn­ing there isn’t even a sign that a cleanup has hap­pened. We still haven’t ex­plored our cre­ativ­ity in try­ing to make re­us­able prod­ucts. Wood, bam­boo and steel don’t look like long term so­lu­tions but we can def­i­nitely try our hands at some­thing new. At times we don’t even need to use straws, for ex­am­ple when hav­ing king co­conut. So tiny changes can go a long way and for that every­body needs to join in this global cam­paign.”


In 2018, Sri Lankans, es­pe­cially in Colombo wit­nessed a mas­sive garbage seg­re­ga­tion pro­gramme car­ried out by the Nokunu

ini­tia­tive. The vol­un­teers con­ducted doorto-door cam­paigns where they ed­u­cated fam­i­lies in the un­der-de­vel­oped ar­eas of Colombo to seg­re­gate garbage and dis­pose them ac­cord­ingly. In ad­di­tion to that the Nokunu vol­un­teers also man­aged to clean sev­eral canals and move closer in their ef­forts to keep the city clean and green. One of their most suc­cess­ful projects was the Beira Lake cleanup. On an­other pos­i­tive note, var­i­ous cafes and eater­ies have now shifted to us­ing steel and bam­boo-in­spired cut­lery as means of re­duc­ing the im­pact made by sin­gle-use plas­tics. A few ven­dors have also come for­ward in selling re­us­able bags in an ef­fort to stop the use of sin­gle-use plas­tic bags. How­ever, much more needs to be done in terms of seg­re­ga­tion, dis­posal and re­cy­cling of plas­tics and poly­thene to en­sure that their im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment is min­imised.

Join the #One­plas­ticfree­day cam­paign to­day and be a part of a global ini­tia­tive to stop the use of sin­gle-use plas­tics ; to stop in­dus­tries that con­tinue to prey on all cit­i­zens and our planet.

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