Malik Amin calls for innovative solutions for waste collection, recycling

ISLAMABAD:Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, has called upon the plastic producers to play their rule in managing the menace of plastic waste in sustainable manner, which is playing havoc with environment and public health.

Addressing as a keynote speaker at a high-level National Consultative Policy Dialogue on Plastic Waste Management, he emphsised that the incumbent government is very much committed to tackling the growing environmental menace of plastic waste.

It has taken several policy and legal measures in this regard under the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision for Clean Green Pakistan and sustainable consumption and production initiatives for achieving environmentally-sound sustainable development, said a news release issued on Sunday.

Yet, these efforts for sustainable plastic waste management are unlikely to achieve any desired results as long as the various stakeholders – involved in manufacturing, sale and use of plastic materials – play their parts under their extended responsibility towards plastic waste management, PM’s aide Malik Amin cautioned the participants from various national and international organisations involved in plastic manufacturing, use and plastic packaging of various products.

Organised jointly by the Ministry of Climate Change and the Pakistan Collect and Recycle (CoRe) Alliance, the day-long stakeholder engagement event held here on Sunday at a local hotel aimed to discuss at length and frame responses to shared challenge of packaging waste and collection mechanism, drive performance improvements and ultimately strengthen collective action for sustainable collection and disposal of plastic waste in a scientific and environmental-friendly way.

He highlighted that large-scale plastic waste, which accounts for significant share in overall municipal waste, is generated in the country as a result of use of various products of beverage companies and urged the firms to exhibit heightened level of their responsibility to retrieve their plastic waste and recycle it under the extended responsibility measures.

The PM’s aide Malik Amin also recalled that there has been enhanced engagements with companies overall last several weeks, which are selling products in plastic bags in the country, to ensure their plastic waste at the tail-end level in neighborhood markets is also collected and recycled properly as a part of the government’s measures for tackling the soaring quantity of municipal waste and the problem of choking of drains.

However, it is heartening to note that some of the firms have pledged to introduce technology measures for managing and recycling the plastic waste generated as a result of the consumption of their products in plastic materials, he informed the participants.

Spelling about figures about the plastic waste in the country, Malik Amin Aslam said Plastic consumption in Pakistan is on the rise with 15 annual growth, most of which ends in landfills, unmanaged dumps or strewn about land and water bodies across the country.

He said the country’s total annual plastic waste generation in year 2020 stood at around 3.9 million tons, which is expected to increase to 6.12 million tons per annum by year 2050.

Around 70 percent of this plastic waste (2.6 million tons) is left unmanaged/mismanaged and is generally left stockpiled in dumpsites, clogging drains or degrading the fertile lands, he added.

The PM’s aide pointed out while referring to various studies that it has been estimated around 1.3 million tons/annum of the plastic could be recycled with the present given facilities and capacity available in the country.

He said further that around 30 million tons of municipal waste is generated across the country.

“Though plastic waste in the municipal waste stream presently accounts for 10 percent to 14 percent but share of plastic waste in the overall municipal waste is rapidly increasing due to growing generation of plastic waste on the heels of galloping population of the country, explained Malik Amin Aslam, a brain behind the prime minister’s policies for Clean Green Pakistan and promotion of sustainable production and consumption.

Nevertheless, what is shocking to note that over 70 percent of the plastic waste generated in the country is not recycled and joins municipal waste stream; whereas, around 25-30 percent of the plastic waste is managed by the informal recycling sector involving housewives, scavengers/iterant buyers, scrap dealers and small PET/LDPE/HDPE crushing units, Malik Amin said while referring to official studies.

He asked participants, “You must know that Pakistan has a long way to go in tackling the challenge of plastic waste and this cannot be achieved without the support and collaboration of all stakeholders both in the public and private sectors including manufacturers of plastic products like Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), which is the most common thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family and is used in fibres for clothing, containers for liquids and foods, and thermoforming for manufacturing, and in combination with glass fibre for engineering resins”.

Malik Amin Aslam, however, hoped that the national discourse on the plastic waste management scientifically and environmentally among the plastic manufacturers, sellers and users would lead towards a clear roadmap for making Pakistan plastic free once for all.

Addressing the event participants, Syed Mujtaba Hussain, who is leading campaigns against polythene bags in the city and is senior joint secretary of the climate change ministry said that working with the local innovators, industry and governmental organisations is being given high importance for developing systemic solutions to promote the transition towards a circular economy for plastics, wherein, they never become waste or minimize their leakage into environment.

He remarked, “However, we have agreed to the fact that managing plastic waste requires us to not only reduce, reuse and recycle but also rethink innovative solutions to the menace of menace plastic waste and turn it into a economic resource,” Mujtaba Hussain said.

He emphasized that all-out support would be provided to those manufacturers, producers and users of plastics, who would introduce innovative solutions for plastic waste collection and recycling.

Addressing the event, a lead expert on plastic pollution and chemicals at the climate change ministry, Deputy Director Dr Zaigham Abbas, said Pakistan has the highest percentage of mismanaged plastic in South Asia.

There are several countries that have duly banned the use of plastic bags such as Bangladesh, France, and Rwanda. While learning from these countries’ experiences, Pakistan has issued a (Statutory Regulatory Order) SRO to ban the single-use plastic bags in Islamabad.

“While the ban on single-use plastic bag is being implemented in full swing across the territory of the capital city, stakeholders involved in manufacturing, selling and use of plastics are being approached to manage and recycle plastic waste as a part of the incumbent government’s efforts for environmental conservation and protection,” he informed the participants.