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Wed, 06 May 2015 21:27:51
Sri Lanka promotes waste plastic recycling
03 Nov, 2007 23:48:44
By Niranji Jayawardena
Nov 03, 2007 (LBO) – The Sri Lankan government has begun encouraging plastic waste recycling in an effort to prevent the material piling up along the road side and causing environmental pollution.
The authorities are keen to spread the message that there's money in collecting and recycling waste.

Already several businessmen have started recycling plants and the government wants to improve the collection system.

"Countries like Japan and in Europe you don’t see plastic waste dumped on the road side – they have an effective way of disposing and recycling," says Pasan Gunasena, Director General of the Central Environmental Authority (CEA).

"So it not the problem of plastics, it’s the system of how you manage the post consumer plastics."

The CEA recently launched a program called the national post-consumer plastic waste management.

A tax on plastic imports is being used to help fund the collection and recycling of the waste.

“The money collected through the cess is given to the CEA as a fund to implement this project which explores the possibilities of disposal of plastics and polythene,” says Gunasena.

The fund is now about 100 million rupees and the authorities hope that after the first year of operation, raw plastic imports could be reduced by 20 percent.

Sri Lanka imports 160,000 tonnes of plastic raw materials each month.

The CEA wants to encourage people to segregate the plastic from other garbage to make it easier to collect and send for recycling.

There are more than 120 plastic and polythene recyclers in the county.

Most are small ventures like that of T.D. Priyashantha who owns a plastic and polythene recycling factory employing some 15 people.

He saw the potential of recycling plastic and polythene 10 years ago.

Today his factory operates round-the-clock producing 500 kg of recycled plastics and polythene particles and cubes a day.

"I went into this business because I was aware that there was demand for recycled plastic," says Priyashantha.

"It is easy to find the raw material. Many factories had a problem with waste disposal."

But he says he doesn’t have enough segregated waste plastic and polythene materials to recycle.

"It is good for the environment because polythene won’t collect in the system.

"If there is a good price for it, more people will collect polythene."

The new CEA project hopes to improve the collection of segregated plastic waste.

"You can separate the polythene bags and other plastic waste and before separation you have to wash it - so this is an income generation source,” says Rizvi Majeed, Project Director of the CEA.

"Recyclers pay for the material and if you separate it the prices are very high so it is up to the collector, namely the local authority."

The districts of Colombo, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa have been identified as the ones where most polythene and plastics waste is generated.

That is because a number of religious and other festivals take place in these areas, drawing large crowds of people.

According to a ministry of forestry and environment survey, 185 tonnes of non-degradable polythene and plastic waste is thrown out within the Colombo district each day.

To process larger volumes of waste a big washing plant is needed.

Priyashantha pay collectors 45 rupees per kilo of waste plastics if it is clean.

"If it is dirty, unwashed polythene we don’t want it even at five cents," says Priyashantha.

"We can’t stack them here. Say we are brought a tonne of lunch sheets. How many people would we need to sit and clean it? If we had a washing plant it would take only a day.

If they bring us clean polythene, both parties benefit."

Priyashantha sells the recycled plastic particles and cubes to toy makers, bottle makers and the shoe soles makers, charging 160 rupees a kilo.

To import the same raw material a buyer has to pay 260 rupees per kilo.

Recycling of plastics and polythene is currently a profitable business.

Majeed says plastic waste tends to pollute water and disrupt agriculture and that burning it can also be hazardous.

"We will encourage recycling. In the future it will be a very competitive business. I mean plastic waste will be a very valuable thing in the future."

The authority hopes to increase the number of plastics and polythene collectors in the country and create more awareness.

"We start from school children," says Majeed.

The island has long had people who buy old bottles and newspapers.

Collecting old iron has also become a lucrative business to some.

But not everyone knows that there is money in waste plastic.

. Moneyreport Newsdesk
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1. Kevin Nov 08
It is nice to read of progress in this area. There is so much potential with this kind of effort. I was shocked to see the prolific road-side dumping during the time I volunteered in Lanka shortly after the tsunami.

Certainly not a process that is sustainable. Maybe I should relocate to Lanka and get involved? :)