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Rejuvenating waste plastic bottles, a universal treasure

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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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Govt urged to unlock true potential of Sri Lanka’s Blue Economy

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=Take initiatives to reap maximum benefit from our seafood resource

=Fisheries sector can quickly generate employment and export earnings

=Modernizing fisheries sector is a collective responsibility of the government

by Sanath Nanayakkare

Championing the Blue Economy is a relatively easy way out for Sri Lanka to generate employment and export earnings as Sri Lanka can hardly become an industrialized nation, Shiran Fernando, President- Canned Fish Manufacturers Association of Sri Lanka. (CFMASL) told the media last week.

“Concerted efforts need to be made to reap long-term benefits of the sustainable use of marine resources to promote economic growth and come out of the current economic crisis. Facilitating extensive fish farming, proper handling/storage, keeping the catch quite fresh for processing would be key in achieving this goal. The whole government should spearhead this endeavor without leaving the task to the Ministry of Fisheries alone. The fisheries ministry is hard put to find funds despite its willingness to help the private sector to take the industry to the next level. There is a role for the government to play in this exercise which the private investors can’t,” he said.

The outspoken entrepreneur said that the fisheries sector is not getting the attention it deserves from the government although the Minister of Fisheries and the Ministry Secretary are passionate about the industry and are supportive of the private sector investors.

“What we say is; it’s the duty of the government to modernize the practices of this industry by helping the fisher folk to completely transform their way of catching fish by enforcing regulations for responsible fishing, guiding them on protecting the marine ecosystem and providing them with modern fishing vessels with refrigeration technology. They still go out to see on old boats and can’t carry enough ice for fish preservation, therefore, a lot of fish is found to be less than perfect and is diverted for making dried fish. The government should invest in and encourage key innovations in fisheries such as modern boats, nets and cooling systems through appropriate financial arrangements or cluster schemes to fully utilize the catch. You may not be able to get everyone on board such projects, so get as many fisher folk as possible to join such schemes and get them to engage in the industry in a sustainable way with a long-term view. As canned fish manufacturers, we have fulfilled the pledge we made a few years ago that we would manufacture enough canned fish to meet the nation’s requirement. Currently 250,000 canned fish are consumed per day in the country. Now 5 factories of our Association produce 300,000 units of canned fish per day exceeding the daily requirement. Although the consumption had dropped in September-October last year, now it has stabilized with prices coming down. We thank the ministry for increasing the Special Commodity levy (SCL) by Rs. 100 on imported canned fish. We don’t ask the government to stop canned fish imports. Let the Sri Lankan consumers eat imported canned fish if they want to pay more. However, when you import the product that can lead to unemployment and underutilization of our seafood resource,” he said.

Fernando insisted on monitoring and regulating of canned fish companies that don’t carry SLS standards to create awareness in consumers and encourage them to buy local canned fish made in compliance with standards.

He said that his company’s (TESS Group of Companies) operations at currently inoperative Oluvil Harbour would begin soon.

“Our operation there will commence with over Rs 20 million spent on refurbishing the cold storage and factory that TESS Group built there long ago. Since this harbor has not been used for 12 years now, the harbor mouth needs re-dredging. If the government intervenes and does the needful, the area will be more viable for commercial fisheries and will create sustainable livelihoods opportunities for people in the area.”

He noted that if the government supports their Association for value added re-exports of canned fish, they can import raw fish and repack it as fillet fish Flounder (used in fish and chip recipes), Salmon fillet, Anchovy fillets etc., and thus supply to the high-end segment of the global market and increase the country’s export earnings.

“Sri Lanka is doing certain things right in the fisheries sector. We are on the right path, but we urge the authorities to pay more attention and adopt strategies to maximize the use of its vast oceanic resources,” he said.

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ComBank upgrades Q+ Payment App to introduce ‘Send Money’ fund transfers facility

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The Q+ Payment App, another state-of-the-art product of Commercial Bank of Ceylon, which uses a cutting-edge technology, has scaled new heights in technology-enabled convenience with the addition of several new features that enable different methods of fund transfers and flexible payment scheduling options similar to standing orders.

Customers who have linked their Commercial Bank cards to the Q+ Payment App can now send money to another locally-issued Visa and Mastercard Debit, Credit or Prepaid card, to a Commercial Bank or other local bank account or to any Payment Exchange Name (PEN) through any LankaPay-registered mobile number, directly from their registered cards in the App.

Notably, the Card-to-Card funds transfer feature is the first of its kind to be implemented via a payment application in Sri Lanka and is operated via the ‘Visa Direct’ and ‘Mastercard Send’ card-based fund transfer facilities. This user-friendly, two-step fund transfer method can be executed simply by keying in the card number of the recipient and the desired amount, the Bank said. Similarly, the Card-to-Account feature is equally convenient as the sender is require to select the recipient’s bank and then type the account number and amount to conclude the fund transfer. Q+ Payment App has also enabled a favourites tab to store recipient card and account particulars to perform future transactions even more conveniently.

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Kala Pola 2023 Open-Air Art Fair celebrates 30 years of promoting visual art in Sri Lanka

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Kala Pola, Sri Lanka’s annual open-air art fair, will celebrate 30 years of enhancing livelihoods of Sri Lankan artists in an enthralling atmosphere along Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, also known as Green Path, on 19th February 2023. As Sri Lanka’s pioneering and best-known visual art fair inspired by the world-famous outdoor art fairs in Montmartre Paris and the Turl Street Art Festival in Oxford, Kala Pola 2023 will bring together various art enthusiasts from across the Island, creating a vibrant platform for artists to showcase their art to a large and enthusiastic audience.

Conceptualised and launched by the George Keyt Foundation (GKF) in 1993 and nurtured by the unbroken patronage of the John Keells Group since 1994, Kala Pola strives to elevate the visitor experience each year whilst seeking to include more artists and attract more visitors, thereby generating greater income for the artists.

Nadija Tambiah, President Legal, Secretarial and Corporate Social Responsibility at John Keells Group said, “Kala Pola is a primary initiative in John Keells Foundation’s efforts to promote and nurture Sri Lanka’s Arts & Culture.

Through its three-decade existence, Kala Pola has focused on delivering an uncurated, vibrant platform for Sri Lankan artists – whether senior established artists or emerging artists – effectively forming the base of John Keells Group’s roadmap for fostering Sri Lanka’s Arts & Culture.”

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