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Bottle-to-bottle recycling can boost Sri Lanka in the transition to circularity in plastics

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By Amila Abeynayaka

Dr. Abeynayaka is a Policy Researcher currently attached to the IGES Centre Collaborating with UNEP on Environmental Technologies (CCET), Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), Japan.

Pollution caused by the irresponsible disposal of plastics is a significant issue, particularly in developing countries like Sri Lanka.

According to Great Britain’s Royal Statistical Society, it is estimated that only 9% of all plastics ever produced globally has been recycled. This is particularly concerning since according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), all nations collectively produce about 300 million metric tonnes of plastic every year – nearly equivalent in weight to that of the entire global human population.

However, not all plastics are equal in this equation. Polyethene terephthalate (PET) plastics, in particular, stand out, given that they are 100% recyclable. PET is considered the most promising food-packaging plastic for recycling and is used extensively for this purpose, particularly for the production of bottles containing drinks, hand sanitisers, dishwashing liquid etc. In addition, PET is more suitable for the recycling process, given its ability to minimise the possibility of contamination following consumption.

Hence, in sharp contrast with the overall recycling rate of plastics, PET bottle recycling rates in some countries exceed 80%. Sri Lanka also aspires to increase its PET bottle collection and recycling rate from 27% to 100% by 2025 to ‘ensure safe, high-quality and durable products,’ as per the National Action Plan on Plastic Waste Management in Sri Lanka (NAPPWM).

The changes required

Technology is not a constraint and is already available within the country. However, achieving this target requires crosscutting enabling conditions, including legal arrangements and policy changes, stakeholder engagement and dialogue, public participation, financing, and capacity development.

Legal and policy changes are necessary for a crucial shift towards bottle-to-bottle recycling. This relates to recycling an entire PET bottle to produce a new PET bottle, a concept that has been successfully implemented in many developed regions.

After being used by consumers, the three common scenarios for PET bottles are; bottle-to-bottle recycling, incineration and landfill disposal.

It is clear that bottle-to-bottle recycling is by far the preferred option among these options. It reduces pollution and carries a host of other benefits, including reducing carbon emissions by decreasing the need for new plastics.

However, Sri Lanka doesn’t legally allow recycled products in food-grade manufacture. The Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 1160/30 of 29th June 2010 prohibits the use of ‘any food in any package, appliance, container or vessel that has been made from recycled plastic.’ This reality needs to change and conducive regulations/policies should be introduced.

Implementing the changes

In terms of implementation, bottle-to-bottle recycling can be done through two methods; mechanical and chemical recycling. The first refers to using mechanical processes (which typically involve cleaning, grinding, re-melting, and re-granulating). It is considered that through this method, bottle-to-bottle recycling is possible up to 4 to 6 times for PET plastics.

Chemical recycling, in contrast, uses a chemical process to achieve this objective, to break down the material to its original form for processing and, after that, for the production of new items. This system allows potentially infinite cycles of recycling. Still, it has implications for the comparatively larger generation of carbon emissions associated with transboundary PET waste movements.

Besides the method of recycling that should be employed, another critical consideration is whether bottle-to-bottle recycling carries risks since the plastics could potentially get contaminated, especially in food-grade packaging. For instance, contact between plastics and other waste, such as electronic waste, increases the risk of the presence of toxic metals in recycled plastics.

However, such concerns can be addressed by putting the necessary safeguards in place by adopting models similar to those of developed countries. For instance, in the European Union (EU), recycled plastics used in food contact materials should only be obtained from recycling processes that have been assessed for safety by the European Food Safety Authority and authorised by the European Commission.

Transition to a ‘circular’ model

Such certification ensures the separation of different types of waste, domestic waste collection systems with storage and transportation that avoid contaminations and sound tech-driven recycling. Another alternative exists, too, including chemical recycling to regenerate material similar to virgin material.

However, such efforts require collaboration between and high levels of awareness among all stakeholders. This includes manufacturers and recyclers in the private sector, consumers and the Government. The model used in Japan provides an excellent case study. In this model, consumers ensure proper segregation of used plastic containers and packages, which facilitates the collection of the segregated waste by the Municipal Government. Manufacturers recycle this waste and, after that, use it in products. Hence, all stakeholders play an equally-critical role, which ensures the smooth functioning of the system.

Sri Lanka too can transition to a similar model, with high ‘circularity,’ which involves a ‘closed loop’. In this, the value of plastics is retained through reuse and recycling, not allowing leakage into the environment. This is unlike the present ‘linear’ model in which plastics are used and disposed of, creating significant damage.

Such a model will be beneficial economically – for instance, by reducing foreign exchange lost through imports of plastics each year and socially and environmentally – by reducing pollution and its harmful effects – which includes the likes of the increased spread of diseases such as dengue.

Hence, Sri Lanka should begin the transition towards bottle-to-bottle recycling of PET plastics. However, as indicated, this requires the support of all stakeholders.

The author would appreciate your feedback on the article. You can start a conversation with Dr. Abeynayaka directly on Twitter on @litterlifecycle.

Web: www.iges.or.jp/en | www.ccet.jp

Transforming “waste” into “resources” once again (a Japanese example)



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NCE highlights costs of Customs officers’ trade union action

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‘The recent actions taken by the Sri Lanka Customs Officers Union, including a two-day sick leave campaign and work-to-rule initiatives, have had profound implications across Sri Lanka’s business community, particularly affecting exporters and importers. These actions were initiated due to perceived grievances and unmet demands from the Customs Officers Union on various issues, the National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka (NCE) is quoted as saying in a press release.

The release adds: ‘Jayantha Karunaratne, president of the National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka highlighted the significant disruptions caused by these actions. He emphasized that the work-to-rule approach has resulted in substantial delays in clearing imported goods at ports and checkpoints, causing disruptions in production schedules and logistical operations. These delays have particularly impacted exporters, who face stringent deadlines to fulfill international orders, leading to strained relationships with overseas buyers and potential financial penalties for missed deliveries.

‘Additionally, these disruptions have imposed additional costs on businesses. Importers have incurred demurrage charges due to extended delays in clearing shipments, impacting profitability and operational efficiency. For exporters handling perishable goods like seafood and fresh produce, delays have posed substantial challenges, sometimes resulting in significant financial losses and resource wastage from spoiled goods.

‘The NCE underscored Customs’ critical role in facilitating trade and economic activity in Sri Lanka, stressing that efficient and predictable Customs processes are crucial for maintaining the competitiveness of Sri Lankan businesses globally. Given that exports are pivotal to Sri Lanka’s economy, disruptions to Customs operations can have far-reaching impacts on economic growth, employment, and overall national prosperity.

‘Expressing serious concern about potential escalations, the NCE warned that prolonged strikes or ongoing disruptions could further destabilize business confidence and investor sentiment. They urged swift and constructive dialogue between the Customs Officers’ Union and relevant authorities to address grievances and find mutually beneficial solutions. Restoring normalcy and reliability to Customs operations, they emphasized, is imperative to support the resilience and growth of Sri Lanka’s export sector amid challenging global economic conditions.

‘In addition to operational disruptions, exporters are increasingly voicing frustration and concerns about Sri Lanka’s future business environment. Many are contemplating relocating operations to countries offering more stable and predictable trade conditions. This potential exodus poses significant economic risks, including job losses, reduced export revenues, and diminished investor confidence.

‘Shiham Marikar, Secretary General/CEO of NCE, stressed the urgent need for Sri Lanka to address these challenges promptly to retain and attract businesses. He emphasized the importance of creating a supportive environment for exporters characterized by efficient Customs processes, regulatory stability, and supportive government policies. Such an environment is crucial for retaining existing exporters and attracting new investments, thereby fostering economic growth and enhancing competitiveness in global markets.

‘Highlighting the competitive nature of the global economy, the NCE emphasized the necessity for Sri Lanka to maintain a reliable and efficient trade infrastructure to remain competitive internationally. Addressing exporter concerns and ensuring a stable business environment should be a top priority for policymakers and stakeholders alike.

‘It is crucial for the government to take swift action to prevent recurring disruptions caused by the Customs Officers’ Union. The recent disruptions have disproportionately affected Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy. SMEs, operating with smaller margins and less flexibility, are particularly vulnerable to delays and uncertainties in trade operations.

‘These disruptions not only impact daily SME operations but also undermine their competitiveness in domestic and international markets. Many SMEs rely heavily on timely imports and efficient exports to sustain operations, making disruptions detrimental to their growth and viability. Prolonged instability in trade operations risks SMEs relocating or downsizing operations in Sri Lanka, posing significant threats to employment, economic growth, and overall stability.

‘The NCE urged the government to implement robust measures to prevent future disruptions, including constructive dialogue with Customs officers and reforms enhancing Customs efficiency and predictability. Creating a stable and supportive business environment is crucial for protecting SMEs and fostering their growth, thereby contributing to Sri Lanka’s economic resilience and prosperity’.

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Elevating customer experiences, Sampath Bank partners with Royal Colombo Golf Club

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The team from Royal Colombo Golf Club, including Amrith De Soysa – Captain, Gehan Siribaddanan – Vice Captain, Ms. Geera Gajamugan – Director of Administration and Shiran D. Rahuman – Manager of Marketing & Membership Services, stands on the left. De Soysa is seen receiving the main sponsorship from Ms, Ayodhya Iddawela – Managing Director of Sampath Bank PLC, surrounded by Tharaka Ranwala, SDGM – Marketing, Customer Care and Card Centre, Pujitha Rajapaksa, Chief Manager – Marketing and Shantha Kalawitigoda, Manager – Events & Activations.

Sampath Bank is pleased to announce its sponsorship of the prestigious July Monthly Medal Event at the Royal Colombo Golf Club (RCGC), scheduled for the 12th and 13th of July 2024. The sponsorship was formalised during a cheque-handing ceremony on the 10th of July, marking a significant collaboration between Sampath Bank and the RCGC.

The July Monthly Medal Event is a highlight on the golfing calendar, attracting over 300 golfers from across the country. The event will be held over two days, culminating in an award ceremony on the second day. Sampath Bank’s involvement acknowledges its commitment to fostering customer satisfaction and providing exceptional experiences for its valued customers.

Participants in the event will enjoy a variety of activities, including a golf practice session with coaching, the main golf tournament, and an exclusive Cheese & Wine evening on the first day for Sampath Bank customers. Following the two-day tournament, there will be a grand award ceremony and a cocktail event to honour the winners. This initiative not only promotes golf but also provides a unique platform for high-net-worth individuals to engage in a distinguished social setting.

Commenting on the sponsorship, Tharaka Ranwala, Senior Deputy General Manager Marketing, Customer Care & Card Centre, said, “Sampath Bank has always been a strong supporter of all sports, though golf has traditionally been less highlighted, despite its popularity among elite and high-net-worth customers within the banking industry. Sponsoring this event aligns perfectly with our new vision and strategy, which emphasises a greater focus on corporate customers and high-net-worth individuals. Although this is our first partnership with the Royal Colombo Golf Club, we bring extensive experience from our previous collaborations with the Tamil Golf Association’s events in the UK and Canada.”

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Asiri Hospitals and NITF sign landmark agreement to provide tangible healthcare benefits for all Agrahara members

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Asiri Group of Hospitals, trusted for high standards in patient-centered care has signed a landmark agreement with the National Insurance Trust Fund (NITF), to provide comprehensive concessions to all government employees through the Agrahara Medical Insurance scheme.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Dr. Manjula Karunaratne, Director/Group CEO of Asiri Hospitals, and Gamani N. Liyanarachchi, CEO of NITF, during a ceremony held recently.

The event was attended by several distinguished participants from both organizations. Representing NITF were Sagala Abhayawickrama, Chairperson, Samil Thushara, AGM Operations, Nimali Pathirana, AGM Insurance, Prathibha Welikanna, Asst. Manager Legal, Nuwan Dissanayake, Asst. Manager Marketing, Dammika Weerakoon, Acting AGM Finance.

Asiri Hospitals was represented by Nihal Ratnayake, Director Operations Asiri Central Hospital, Indresh Fernando, Chief Process Officer, Bhathiya Jayasinghe, Group Head, Business Development, Dhananjaya Bandara Dela, Head of Business Development, Government Sector.

The enduring partnership aims to offer tangible healthcare benefits and the renowned comprehensive healthcare services offered by Asiri Hospitals to all NITF Agrahara members. It marks a major milestone in Asiri Hospitals’ commitment to build long-term collaborations that benefits the community. It also reaffirms Asiri Hospitals’ position as a trusted healthcare provider ensuring healthcare is more accessible, affordable, while uplifting the living standards of the public service.

Importantly, Agrahara members are eligible to seek treatment from any hospital in the Asiri group or its laboratories. The agreement also introduces a cashless admission scheme for NITF members, simplifying the process and enabling seamless access to Asiri Hospitals’ services without the need for upfront payments. Members can benefit from waived admission fees, reducing the financial burden for those seeking medical care. Room rates are also heavily discounted.

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