Islamabad: Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has said that Pakistan is the second largest domestic market for plastic with very limited recycling potential of 18% and only 3% plastic is recycled in Pakistan.
Ms Andersen was delivering a distinguished guest lecture on “Environmental governance in addressing plastic pollution and the role of CSOs” here at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
The UNEP chief said that each year 400 million tons of plastic products are generated out of which 300 million tons end up in global waste basket recklessly, creating a big hazard for the environment.
She said that the use of plastic made day-to-day life easier. She said that her organisation is not anti-plastic but “anti-plastic in environment.” she said that once plastic is part of economy, it should be kept in cycle rather than being used once and then disposed of where it ends up in landfills, marine and water bodies as well as in low-lying urban vicinities.
Highlighting the extensive infiltration of plastic in our lives and the entire value-chain, she suggested that we must be the part of solution and must have a shared responsibility particularly not only in using plastic packaging for goods but also at different stages during transit. She said that it is the responsibility of brands and consumers to reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse by rethinking packaging and how it is delivered to consumers. She called upon the civil society to play its role in advocating the issue, generating scientific data, and creating awareness to reduce plastic waste in the environment. As we make strides in this regard, we must think of garbage collectors, especially the young children, that they must not be left behind and should be provided alternative, safe, decent livelihoods and sustainable incomes, she elaborated.
Stressing the need for stringent legislation to govern the plastic content to reduce waste and improve recycling and extended producer guarantees, she said that even if plastic is mechanically or chemically recycled, we must consider that it does not come without cost and chemical recycling, particularly with a huge carbon footprint.
Responding to a question, she said that as many as 36 countries in Africa have banned single use plastics and public awareness is very high deterring the use of plastics there.
To another question of the financing gap, she said that strict public enforcement will catalyse action from private sector to increase recycling and discourage the use of virgin plastics. To a query, she responded that 65% of global plastic waste comes in single use while only 35% is recycled that must be increased, the trans-boundary dumping of waste though illegal means is still a pertinent issue, which calls for increase in vigilance and requires solutions to address the plastic challenge rather than pushing it to different locations, she concluded.
Shafqat Kakakhel, Chairperson of SDPI BoG, said that out of total 9 billion tons of plastic waste produced since the 1950s, 7 billion tons is still circulating in various forms in landfills, dumps and aquatic bodies etc making it one of the most pertinent cotemporary challenges.