The United Nations claims that there are 51 trillion microplastics in the sea, which is 500 times more than stars in the galaxy. This data is an apt representation of the rising problem of plastics that is evidently only getting worse. With growing consumerism and commercialization, it would not be wrong to say that plastics have become an inseparable part of human life. From the food that we consume to the products that we use, all of it comes to us packaged in some or the other forms of plastic. This overt dependence of humans to plastics has increased to the point that it has become an indispensable part of our lifestyle today.
With time and with increasing materialism, the use of plastic has gone so much out of hand that what was considered a blessing has become a massive curse today. Plastic waste has been feared as much as climate change and the repercussions of global warming. Out of the various forms of plastic pollution, managing Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) Plastic Waste is a challenge.
Although PET bottles are highly recyclable, most of them ends up as waste eventually resulting in massive pollution. It is estimated that by 2021, over 500 billion PET bottles will be produced. Similarly, out of the almost 500 billion productions of PET bottles in 2016, less than half of it was recycled. If the production and consumption of these bottles continue at the expected number with the recycling rate stagnant, their impact only seems to aggravate more.
Plastic pollution is a global problem and Nepal is no exception to it. With the increasing purchasing power of people, their demands have also grown. This, in turn, has fostered the culture of consumerism and added to the problem of growing plastic and plastic related productions. It is reported that on average, 100 million plastic bags are consumed in a month in Kathmandu alone. Out of the total urban waste generated in Kathmandu, 16 percent is occupied by plastic waste which implies that 2.7 tonnes of plastic waste are generated daily. The statistics point to the magnitude of plastic pollution in Nepal. Even within plastic pollution, the generation of waste PET bottles is a serious but often neglected issue.
According to a report by GIZ, there are 52 PET bottle manufacturing industries in Nepal that produce 24000 tons of PET bottles annually. To cater to the waste PET bottles produced by these manufacturing industries, there are only 2 small scale recycling centers. Further, it has been reported that 15000 tons of waste PET bottles are generated in Nepal and out of this number, 10-12000 tons of it are illegally exported to Nepal. While the level of awareness among people about the proper disposal of plastic bottles and the culture of reusing it is almost bleak, the waste management mechanism is not impressive either.
To cater to the failed waste management and recycling mechanism of Nepal, Recycler Saathi, an initiative of CREASION has been introduced as a first of its kind project that legally exports waste bottles to India through Essel Industries Pvt Ltd., the Nepal unit of the Ganesha Ecosphere Ltd., India. Based on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, the project is supported by Coca Cola Foundation and Bottlers Nepal (Terai) Ltd. The waste PET bottles bought from private companies and NGOs like Green Nepal City Waste Management Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI) will be sent to the Nepal unit of Ganesha Ecosphere Ltd. in Nawalparasi after baling, which will then be exported legally to India.
While the effort will definitely organize the waste sector of Nepal and help in the formation of a legal means to monetize waste PET bottles, it will also substantially help reduce carbon emissions. Recycling 1 ton of PET reduces 1.5 tonnes of carbon emissions which implies that with the target recycling of 3125 tonnes of PET, 4688 tonnes of carbon emissions can be reduced. Carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas traps excessive heat and contributes to the increasing problem of global warming which has damaging impacts on the environment and human life. Hence, the impact of the project is not just received on a macro level but also on a micro-level through the minimization of carbon emissions.
The major beneficiaries of the Recycler Saathi project are the informal waste collectors. These door- to- door waste collectors are not guaranteed adequate incentives or respect for the work that they carry out due to the negligence to the waste sector of the country. Recycler Saathi aims to integrate these waste workers into its project by providing them better employment opportunities and social security. The long term vision of the project is to make them capable enough to start their own recycling company that would assist the entire recycling mechanism of the country.
Further, the families of the waste workers will also be provided with trainings and skills development classes so that the overall quality of life of the families can be improved for the better. Waste collectors are one of the major players in the war against the mounting environmental pressure created by the increasing activities of humans. The major idea behind the project is to create an organized network of waste workers who are well respected and feel a sense of ownership of the work they do and the purpose that it serves.
To provide better services to the waste workers and to improve and organize their working conditions, Recycler Saathi also has plans to tie up with Alliance for Indian Waste Pickers who have already been working in the same sector with the assistance of the Indian government.
In addition, Recycler Saathi has already started a supporting project- Waste Smart Club to complement its objective of creating a better recycling culture. Waste Smart Club, created in five different schools of Chitwan engages students in various eco- friendly activities with the purpose of creating a generation of young people who care for the environment.
Hence, Recycler Saathi is a project with a sustainable vision of gradually improving and strengthening the waste sector of Nepal. It not only focuses on the bigger picture but prioritizes all the key players in the waste management sector. The successful implementation of the project guarantees a breakthrough in the recycling business of Nepal along with the benefits shared by not just the environment but the economic and social factors of Nepal as well. With constant and unwavering support from the concerned stakeholders, the outcome envisioned by Recycler Saathi will definitely be achieved for the greater good of the country and the environment.