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Better recycle

ANANDA KAFLE
Plastic waste management
Massive pollution caused by the disposal of non-biodegradable wastes like plastic and
polythene has remained one of the burning environmental issues in Nepal. Since these
materials resist auto-decomposition, they persistently contaminate the place where they are
disposed. They not only pollute the ground and the water but harm the atmosphere as well
when they are improperly incinerated. Open burning of these materials hazardous due to
the emission of toxic and carcinogenic substances like dioxin and organo-chlorine
derivatives. Management of such wastes has become troublesome to some extent even for
developed countries.
In Nepal, debates on banning the use of polythene bags make rounds now and then. Some
of the cities have recently been practicing such restrictions. Though in inadequate
quantities, alternative wrapping materials made from paper and cellophane have appeared
in the markets. However, the popularity they have gained as easily available, cheap and
convenient carriers makes it hard to completely remove plastic articles.
For the purpose of shedding light on more effective measures to manage plastic waste, I
would like to take the example of Japanese practices on waste management. Japan has
been presenting a good example to the world about the effective management of nondegradable wastes without putting any restriction on their use. Strict rules regarding waste
disposal and effective techniques for their recycling are more successful approaches than
any sort of blanket prohibition.
Noda-Shi is a small Japanese city nearby Tokyo. It imposes stricter waste disposal
regulations as compared to many other cities. Households are first required to identify the
nature of the waste and segregate those in different bags designated for kitchen
garbage, recyclable cardboards, plastic bags, cans, polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
bottles and so on. They then leave those at designated places on designated days of the
week which the municipality van picks up. Failure to properly drop the wastes can lead to
hefty fines.
Plastic bags and PET bottles are extensively used by shops, supermarkets and
manufacturing companies. For all kinds of shopping, polythene wrappings are
commonplace without restriction or any appeal for greener alternatives. The plastic
containers as well as other recyclables are picked up from waste collection facilities and
taken to appropriate recycling centers where they serve as raw materials for the new batch
of products.

Japan is successful in recycling wastes. According to one The Guardian report, Japan
recycles almost 80 percent of such wastes. It is much higher compared to other developed
countries like the US and the UK. Plastic beads produced from recycling are used for
making articles like toys and different other artifacts. They are even exported to Hong Kong,
Thailand and China for similar purposes. Even if the disposal of ultimate batch products still
remains problematic, it is less severe than open disposal and incineration of the primary
products.

Similar practices can be emulated in our cities as well. Households can be made
responsible for managing their own wastes. After proper sorting, wastes can be sent for
recycling, may be across the border in case of unavailability of such facilities within the
country. It is always a better alternative than the arbitrary littering. This will remarkably
reduce the demand for dumping spaces.
In addition, some revenue can be made from those materials which would otherwise be
thrown away, causing immense harm to the environment. This practice is important also
because enforcing a ban on using plastics may involve augmented administrative expenses
and shut down of some industries, that too at a time when the industrial sector in the
country is the weakest.
In fact, utter negligence even in adopting easier measures for waste management has
worsened things. When households themselves separate wastes and allot a space for
recyclables, the metropolis does not have to face any financial burden or technical difficulty.
Throwing plastic as well as all other litters elsewhere can be prohibited. Fines can be

charged strictly when raising awareness and kind advices are not enough. Maintaining
containers at appropriate places can simplify the management of such litters. The wide
complaint that the municipality is unable to place rubbish bins in enough numbers is
unfounded since carrying ones own waste to ones home is a worldwide practice. It is a
civic duty.
Even if replacing plastic pollutants from the markets is a long term plan, the methods
discussed above can be employed as immediate measures. Since the management of nondegradable wastes includes plastic bottles, cans, and polythene bags, the concept of
recycling can be the most useful solution. Establishment of recycling plants should precede
the closure of plastic bag industries.
The author is currently in Tokyo University of Science, Japan, as a Monbukagakusho
Research Scholar
anandakafle@gmail.com
Published on 2014-11-05 00:24:09