As Sri Lanka ranks near the top of the heap of the worst plastic-waste polluters in the world, the island nation is taking steps to reduce non-biodegradable waste and help preserve the environment.
A proposal before the Cabinet of Ministers to ban single-use plastics, such as bags, straws and bottles, starting in 2021, comes on top of a ban introduced in 2017 on polythene bags under 20 microns in thickness. The 2017 ban came into effect after the island’s biggest dump collapsed, crushing numerous homes and killing 32 people.
Waste generation per capita in Sri Lanka is 215.4 kilograms (474 pounds) a year, dominated by food and beverage packaging, according to the World Bank Waste Atlas. South Asia is the third-largest contributor to the global plastic waste and Sri Lanka ranks fifth, according to earthday.org.
In addition, tonnes of plastic finds it way into the Indian Ocean.
“We plan to ban plastics in a phased manner. In the first phase, we are planning to ban plastic straws and PET bottles. The PET bottles are used for pesticide storage and cannot be recycled due to their contamination. However, the pharmaceutical sector would be exempted from this ban,” said Hemantha Jayasinghe, director-general and chief executive officer of Sri Lanka’s Central Environmental Authority, which introduced the ban proposal to the Cabinet of Ministers.
Across Sri Lanka, biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste is collected and then segregated. Biodegradable waste goes into composting pits, but non-biodegradable waste is dumped on open ground. In most cases,