The management of plastic waste has turned out to be a gigantic task across the globe and the situation is compounded in developing countries like Pakistan with flawed municipal waste management systems. This ultimately has an adverse effect on both human lives as well as the environment.
Realizing the seriousness of the issue and its adverse effects on the ecosystem, the Pakistan Science Foundation in collaboration with UNESCO, the UNDP and a few other donor agencies had launched a series of events in Islamabad over a past couple of months mainly to create awareness among the residents on the hazardous effects of plastic waste on human life, fauna and flora.
According to data collected by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) over 3.3 million tonnes of plastic is wasted every year in Pakistan and most of it ends up in landfills, unmanaged dumps or strewn about land and water bodies across the country. The waste mainly consists of plastic bags, PET bottles and food scraps, and most of this waste is not disposed of adequately.
An interesting depiction was made in the WWF report that in case we put together all the waste generated in Pakistan at one site it would become double the size of the K2 — the second highest peak in the world.
The global cumulative stock of plastic waste that is inadequately managed is predicted to increase from 61 to 72m metric tonnes in 1990 to 5,109 to 5,678 metric tonnes by 2050, a World Bank report suggests.
At least nine million tonnes of plastic end up in oceans across the world every year that makes up 80 per cent of all marine debris from the surface water to the deep-sea sediments, an IUCN report suggests. According to estimates, in case things are not put in the right frame by 2050, the oceans across the globe would have 859 to 950m tonnes of plastic waste.
Assessing ingestion from nature to people, based on the WWF study which was carried out by the University of Newcastle, Australia, showed that people on average could be ingesting about five grams of plastic every week, equivalent to the weight of a credit card, through the air they breathe, the food they eat and, especially, the water they drink. It suggests that people are consuming about 2,000 tiny pieces of every week. That’s approximately 21 grams a month, just over 250 grams a year.
Tackling the problem
So, in the face of such a grave situation, the Pakistan Science Foundation took the initiative of creating awareness among people on plastic waste and the hazards associated with its improper disposal. At the last event held in this regard at the International Islamic University Old Campus near Faisal Mosque earlier this month, students of some five universities of Islamabad displayed their low-cost machines to recycle plastic waste. All the five projects were selected from more than two dozen projects pitched by the universities.
The students briefed the participants about their projects and also gave demonstrations regarding the procedures of making tough tiles and plastic strings by recycling plastic waste. They said that the tough tiles that are made up of plastic waste are 400 times stronger and more durable than regular clay tough tiles.
The speakers praised the students who had come up with a low-cost solution to recycle plastic waste and hoped that the machines made by the students would be replicated and refined for commercial use by the industry and municipalities across the country.
The objective of the programme was to sensitize the residents of Islamabad about the hazardous impact of unmanaged plastic waste and that was the reason their focus mainly remained on youth, senior scientific officer at the Pakistan Science Foundation Syeda Rehana Batool informed Bol News.
She said that they wanted to sensitize people, especially youth, about plastic waste management and the way the students, universities and schools’ managements had enthusiastically participated in these events showed their interest and concern about environmental degradation caused by improper plastic waste management. The concluding ceremony of the five-event series was marked by a walk by the students of various universities and their faculty members to highlight the issue.
Talking to this writer during the walk, Additional Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology Dr Syed Attaur Rehman said the ministry was alive to the situation and would go the extra mile in containing the use of plastic from society.
He said that it took several hundred years for a one-time-use plastic bag or utensil to decompose, and added that if corrective measures are not taken now, the whole world would become a junkyard of plastic.
Living up to its responsibility toward this global problem, the government is taking a number of measures to contain the spread of plastic waste-related pollution and in this connection a ban on the use of plastic bags in the federal capital and a few other cities including Lahore and Hunza was imposed while in due course the one-time-use plastic bags and other material would be replaced with biodegradable plastic bags.
The government was also making the process of garbage collection and its disposal efficient where plastic waste would be segregated before taking the garbage to the dumping or landfill sites.
Source: The Bol News