Single use plastics has become a serious crisis for the earth system. This needs urgent attention. We cannot be satisfied with the global and local actions currently being taken to resolve the issue.
During the audit we found these plastics in the public beaches, school backyards and other public places. They are dumped directly by the people. The single use plastics found in the garbage dumps is a threat to all animals including wildlife such as elephants and other mammals. These plastics in the ocean are threat to fish, turtles, and even coral reefs. They create many social, environmental, visual, economic, and cultural impacts.
Plastic products are thrown away because there is no second hand value for these plastics. Even though some plastics such as bottles can be recycled, there is no successful collection process.
During the brand audit, some limitations were encountered. Firstly, finding a suitable location for the audit was challenging. Often plastics cannot be easily separate from other dirty garbage. It is not hygienic to choose such locations.
Secondly, it is difficult for lay people to identify different types of plastics.
Some of the plastics found are unbranded. Such plastics may include a combination of HDPE, LDPE bags, sheets, and polystyrene boxes. Common items like shopping bags, lunch sheets, home or small enterprise made spice packets do not have brand names either. The third limitation is that it is extremely difficult to pick up small pieces of plastics.
In this audit we found Elephant House is the top single use plastic polluter in Sri Lanka. However the results found vary from location to location. The results shows Coca Cola tops in some locations. CEJ believe this may be because brand popularity is different in various locations.
It is of vital importance to combat and regulate the plastic crisis in order to save ecosystems, living species, and future human generations. The government, businesses, and the general public all have their own role to play in the fight against the single use plastic problem. We make the following recommendations for each party.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE GOVERNMENT
1. Single use plastics such as lunch sheets, shopping bags, small plastic bottles and other selected items have to be totally ban immediately.
2. Large plastic bottles, plastic containers, yoghurt cups and other recyclable items need to be collected and 100 percent recycled.
3. All plastic products need to be included in the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programme and this law need to enact without any delay.
4. Make waste segregation mandatory for all citizens and they should be given to the recyclers only. Government should create incentives for people to take part of mandatory waste segregation.
5. Awareness and education on plastics and waste management should be included to the school/ University curriculum.
6. A national awareness raising campaign should be established and all media should be asked to provide space and time free of charge for educating people on plastics.
7. Adequate recycling facilities should be established and tax concessions and other benefits should be given to those investors.
8. Waste incineration should be discourages as it emits harmful substances to air when burning plastics.
9. National priority should be given to develop alternatives for the current single use plastic items.
10. Culverts, Canals, and small streams should be equipped with plastics traps.
11. Ocean dumping, river dumping, and other haphazard dumping should be declare as a punishable offense.
12. Implement the National Waste Management Policy and Strategy without delay. Current regulations should be strictly enforced and bring other regulations needed.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE BUSINESSES
1. Design all the packaging to avoid generation of single use plastic. Stop using small containers, Sachet packets etc. Provide a clearly visible message to the consumers in the package discouraging littering.
2. Support and implement the Extended Producer Responsibility. Introduce collection, reuse, and recycling mechanisms.
3. Introduce refilling, bulk packaging and other distribution methods to reduce the usage of packaging material.
4. Find environmental friendly alternatives and compostable packaging material and support relevant research.
5. Do not delay moving to sustainable packaging and other packaging reduction strategies.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE PUBLIC
1. Be aware of the waste that you produce. Avoid using single use plastic items as much as possible. These include lunch sheets, plastic straws, yogurt spoons and other unwanted packaging like plastic bags and wrappers etc.
2. Take your own bag and multiple use containers, baskets for shopping.
3. Segregate your waste and give them for recycling. Keep your electronic waste and plastic waste separate from other waste.
4. Do not burn plastic. They releases carcinogenic and toxic fumes that can make you and your children sick.
5. Educate your children, family members and neighbours about the negative impacts of the plastics and burning plastic.