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Rejuvenating waste plastic bottles, a universal treasure



by Michael F. Perera

Valuable resources are extracted every day to develop convenient products such as bottles, containers and more. As the extraction of virgin resources rapidly depletes the availability of such, it is high time a sustainable alternative is fetched, to ensure longevity and liveability for future generations.

With the prices for virgin material on the rise, the alternative, which is waste that can be recycled, is staring at us from the roadsides, canals and landfills. If we collect and recycle the waste plastic bottles around our island, the need to import approximately 1000-1300 tonnes of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) every month would significantly reduce, and help revive the environment and economy as well.

Sixty percent of the monthly PET plastic in Sri Lanka is circulated within the Western Province. Unless measures are taken to collect and dispose of waste plastic effectively, the requirement to import plastic will continue to rise, and the potential for a resilient circular economy and improved livelihoods in the recycling sector, will eventually disappear.


Bottle-to-Bottle: a better solution?


One of the easiest solutions is to bring plastic back into the system and recycle it to produce a bottle again. But, that’s hardly a reality. Why? Sri Lanka doesn’t legally allow recycled content in food-grade manufacturing.

According to the Extraordinary Gazette Notification No. 1160/30 of June 29, 2010 “any food in any package, appliance, container or vessel that has been made from recycled plastic” is prohibited. Thus, there is a fear around using recycled plastic in food-grade packaging in terms of quality, and impact on the health of the end consumer.

However, around the world, countries are embracing this concept, committing to world-class standards and implementing the bottle-to-bottle concept to efficiently curb plastic waste pollution, while also giving back to their economy and local communities. Developed and developing economies such as USA, Canada, Europe, Brazil, Bangladesh and Nigeria allows recycled PET in food-grade packaging, which scales down on the use of virgin resin in manufacturing.

For example, the level of PET bottle recycling in Japan is one of the highest in the world, and this was made possible by the Containers and Packaging Recycling Act (1995) which was implemented to promote the segregated collection and recycling of containers and packaging waste. The Government of Japan designates three types of recycling processes; Material, Chemical and Thermal recycling. PET plastics fall under the ‘Material’ category, where PET bottles are made into new PET products.

In Indonesia, Coca-Cola plans to set up a new recycling facility, which will help eliminate the use of virgin plastic. The facility will house a bottle-to-bottle grade PET recycling facility where the use of recycled plastic could reduce the amount of new plastic resin the company uses by an estimated 25,000 tonnes each year. Through this venture, Coca-Cola hopes to play a critical role in supporting Indonesia’s plastic waste management issue, while creating an impact on the country’s circular economy as well.

Moreover, in evident efforts to save foreign exchange and successfully battle against the war of pollution, the bottle-to-bottle concept is approved in many countries. The case in Sri Lanka should be no different. As this concept is also approved by The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Lankan authorities should follow suit and save valuable foreign exchange by converting waste PET back to a bottle. Currently, Sri Lanka spends up to USD 1,550 per ton, per month in foreign reserves for the importation of PET plastic, where approximately 1000-1300 tons of PET is imported per month.

Additionally, recycling PET bottles to their original form can be done more than 7-8 times, where the process is much more affordable and less harmful to the environment, as PET plastics produce three times less CO2 in production when compared to an alternative material such as glass.

Using modern and advanced machinery in the recycling process, the intrinsic viscosity (IV) level, which is the strength of a bottle, will not only be kept stable, but increase as well.

So if the underlying benefits are clear and extremely advantageous to all Sri Lankans, why hasn’t this concept been implemented?


Waste management: a need for stronger reform


In a holistic point of view, one of the biggest issues in Sri Lanka’s waste management system is the poor implementation of proper waste collection. From rural households, to the urban West, to the authoritative bodies in the country, a responsibility to segregate and dispose of plastic waste appropriately must be indoctrinated.

Primarily, every household should ideally have four separate designated bins to collect organic waste, paper waste, glass and metal waste and plastic waste. This way, collectors can collect the less contaminated plastics and give it to the recyclers.

In Japan, households are encouraged to sort their waste at home as they are provided with specific containers for PET bottles, PS foam containers, and PP bottle caps separately, instead of mixing them with other plastics. They are further encouraged to utilise segregated disposal methods such as PET bottle shredders provided at supermarkets for consumers to dispose of their used PET bottles, after which they can collect store credit or shopping tokens. Japan’s impressively high plastic recycling rate is owed to its local Governments’ sorting rules, which are some of the strictest in the world.

In Sri Lanka, most people look up to the Government to address this issue, but truth be told, the infrastructure and practices in place are outdated and inefficient. In essence, the local Government’s policy decisions in the waste management and recycling arenas have been extreme, often overlooking the long-term economic and environmental benefits that could be availed, in favour of an ‘easy-fix’ ban.

Local authorities are also a key stakeholder in ensuring a proper and efficient waste segregation and management system. Their support in raising awareness and imposing strict rules and penalties to maintain proper waste segregation will not only empower the local recycling industry, but also reflect well as people now want to recycle, but the issue prevails in collection efforts.

Therefore, it is vital that the local communities and the Government take a strong stance in handling the country’s waste management issue, as the long term economic and environmental benefits definitively outweigh the complications and issues created by either neglecting the concerns in the local waste management and recycling sector, or simply chucking the problem under the rug with another ‘ban’. It is critical that waste management efforts are strengthened so that waste plastic makes its way into the recycling economy. An easy solution to the plastic waste issue is also to have plastic go back into the system. However, this is currently prohibited in the country as it has been gazetted as mentioned above. Allowing recycled material to be used in food-grade packaging will further increase the demand for plastic recycling, a critical priority in our island nation.

(The writer is the chairman at CMC Engineering Export GmbH, a member of the Melchers Group, engaged in importing an extensive range of technical products from quality suppliers from Europe and Asia, and is also a Past President of the Institute of Packaging)

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Hemas Hospitals launches ‘Deewara Diri Savi’ to support fishing community



The donation programme was coordinated with the support of the Rev. Fr. Ajith Kamal, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Palliyawatta, who spearheaded the coordination on behalf of the fishing community in the Palliyawatta, Dikowita and Awarakotuwa areas.

Hemas Hospitals launches the ‘Deewara Diri Savi’ mega donation drive to support and empower the fishing community along the Western Coast of the country, whose livelihoods were gravely impacted by the marine destruction caused by the X-Press Pearl ship disaster.

Under ‘Deewara Diri Savi’, Hemas Hospitals will oversee the donation of complete dry ration packs to 818 families in the Wattala fishing community, who have now lost their sole source of income for survival and is undergoing extreme distress due to the implications caused by COVID-19 pandemic together with the fishing ban imposed due to the X-Press Pearl disaster. Further, Hemas Hospitals Wattala is also offering free OPD consultation services to these families to ensure that their wellbeing and access to healthcare is secure and continued during this period.

“Our mission, values and corporate culture guide our actions as we strive hard to deliver on the promise of making healthful living happen to communities across the nation. ‘Deewara Diri Savi’ was founded upon this ethos as we care for, uplift and empower Sri Lanka’s fishing community struggling to make ends meet due to the mass implications and destruction caused to our marine resources with the X-Press Pearl disaster. As a responsible healthcare leader, we will continue to invest our resources and take swift action in supporting this community who add so much to our economy as they transition through this deeply difficult, critical time,” Hemas Hospitals and Laboratories Managing Director and President, Association of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Dr. Lakith Peiris stated.

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Looming challenges contribute to subdued trading activity at CSE



By Hiran H.Senewiratne 

Share trading activity at the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) was negative yesterday as investors were in a state of uncertainty due to the glaring economic woes of the country. The recent fuel price hike, the worries over possible deprivation of the European Union’s GSP Plus trade facility as well as declining foreign exchange reserves put the local and foreign investors in an indecisive mood, stock market analysts said.

The fuel price hike is likely to increase inflationary pressure especially in the manufacturing sector. This would adversely reflect on manufacturing sector counters in the stock market. Further the sovereign bond repayment amounting to US $ one billion in July 2021 with existing reserves just above US $ four billion could worsen the economic crisis to a great extent, stock market analysts said.

Reportedly the Central Bank has informed the Ministry of Finance that due to the Rs 600 billion in loans to the Petroleum Corporation there is risk to the entire banking system being destabilized and collapsing, In such a context, the banking sector counters did not perform positively yesterday, stock market analysts said. The CPC itself has about Rs 390 billion in accumulated losses.

Amid those developments both indices moved downwards. All Share Price Index was down by 28.02 points and S&P SL20 down by 11.43 points.Turnover stood at Rs 1.36 billion with a single crossing. The crossing took place in People’s Leasing, which crossed two million shares to the tune of Rs 26 million and its share price traded at Rs 13.

In the retail market top five companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were LOLC Rs 156.8 million (406,000 shares traded), Royal Ceramic Rs 105 million Rs 105 million (2.78 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 104.1 million (4.56 million shares traded), Hayleys Rs 76.1 million (one million shares traded) and Hayleys Fabrics Rs 51.6 million (2.85 million shares traded).

With the fuel price hike, Lanka IOC share price positively reflected in the stock market. Its share appreciated by 12 percent or Rs 2.40. Lanka-IOC share price started trading at Rs 20.60 and at the end of the day it moved up to Rs 23. During the 68.98 million share volumes changed hands in 18263 transactions.  


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Standard Chartered helps fast-track COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Sri Lanka



Standard Chartered Sri Lanka has successfully financed the import of 4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation by facilitating a trade loan to the Bank of Ceylon and People’s Bank, the Bank announced recently.

In efforts to expedite the nation’s vaccination programme during the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Standard Chartered worked closely with the two leading state-owned banks to facilitate prompt and efficient trade financing solutions to help accelerate the invoice processing and payments to purchase the vaccines.

“Across the globe, Standard Chartered has been in the forefront to help local communities to fight the coronavirus pandemic so that the world can look forward to a better tomorrow. When the first wave hit Sri Lanka last year, Standard Chartered made a much-needed donation of USD500,000 to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society to support emergency relief activities island-wide. This trade loan is a continuation of the Bank’s efforts to help the citizens of Sri Lanka overcome the pandemic and is a testament of Standard Chartered’s ‘here for good’ promise,” said Bingumal Thewarathanthri, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Sri Lanka.

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