Improving Plastic Waste Management
If plastic waste is not properly disposed, collected, segregated, processed and recycled, it can leak into the environment and from there through rivers and other waterways into the ocean. New systems, technologies and actions to improve the management of plastic waste are needed alongside information on proper disposal, collection and segregation of waste.
‘Rethinking Plastics’ supports dialogue, exchange of experiences and good practices and policy development, for example information and exchange on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). EPR is an approach based on the principle that whoever introduces packaging or packaged goods into a country’s market remains responsible for it until the end of the packaging life cycle, including the time after disposal.
Further topics range from the inclusion of the informal waste sector into waste management processes, options for Deposit-Return-Schemes or enhancing plastic recycling through standards to achieve a good quality of recycled materials and increase their market demand.
A Better Collection of Drinking Bottles
A quick coffee in a take-away cup from a café in the morning, water in a plastic bottle throughout the day and an energy drink in an aluminium can in the evening – our “on the go” lifestyle often means that we no longer drink exclusively from our cups and glasses at home. This has its advantages, but also results in a huge amount of rubbish: cups, bottles and cans are usually emptied quickly and thrown away into the nearest bin. But what happens with them then? How can we improve the collection and recycling of these containers? In this pilot project, we tested practical solutions in Xiamen, a city with more than five million inhabitants. Together with research institutes, local organisations and companies across the supply chain, we introduced a Deposit Return Scheme for single-use beverage packaging. This recycling mechanism is based on the principle that consumers are charged a deposit for beverage packaging, which they receive back after correct disposal of the bottle, carton or can.
Innovative Plastic Mulch Film Collection
Jin Shuqin has a vision: “I hope that we can work together to revitalise our earth, so that we have bluer skies, cleaner waters and better soil”. Shuqin heads the Research Center for Rural Economy in the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Affairs. Here, he works on solutions to reduce the impact of plastic mulch film on soil. Mulch film is used by farms to cover and protect young plants, but the thin cover is extremely hard to collect and recycle. Left on the ground, it can accumulate in the soil and can cause a range of problems for agroecosystems. Shuqin hopes to find methods to avoid the plastic residues from entering the soil: “I feel a deep affection for farmlands, just like farmers. We have explored a new mechanism in Inner Mongolia, which allows farmers to use thicker films at lower costs”. These films are easier to collect and recycle and, according to Shuqin, “this has become a win-win situation for everyone.”
WHAT HAVE WE ACHIEVED IN 12 MONTHS?
1. Replacing thin mulch film
In 2015, only 60% of mulch film could be collected from farmland after use. New mechanisms have helped to increase this to 80% in 2020, but this is still too low to avoid plastic particles entering the soil and plants, which ultimately have an effect on people’s health. Together with our partners, we tested three new types of mulch film that would enable an even greater rate of collection: two high-quality mulching films with different levels of thickness and one degradable film. This has resulted in remarkable ecological, social and economic benefits compared to the thinner plastic film: the increased thickness of the film not only led to a higher amount of film being collected, but also reduced the influence of the film on the farmland. Because it was easier to identify, the related time and costs of collection were lowered by over one third. Recycling the thicker material is also easier – e.g. recycled residual film can be processed into a briquette for fuel.
Households Fit for Recycling
“Our garbage used to give off a terrible smell. It would mix with the chemical fumes from nearby farms until we couldn’t tell them apart,” says Sayan Rungrueng, a community-minded citizen from Rayong province. He used to complain to the local government, but nothing ever happened.
A Circular Economy for Islands
The island of Koh Libong is a haven for marine wildlife. It boasts the largest area of seagrass in Thailand and is home to a colony of rare dugongs (sea cows).
Reducing Plastic Waste in Iloilo City
Iloilo City lies on a Philippine island in the Sulu Sea. It is the regional hub for education, tourism, culture and industry. But it has a problem: with plastic products used more and more by businesses and households, plastic waste is increasingly disposed of on its streets, rivers and in the sea.
Sustainable Waste Management in Malang City
TPS-3R facilities are changing the waste management landscape in Indonesia. What sound like robots from Star Wars or computer-generated passwords are actually waste collection and segregation points. In TPS-3R facilities, waste is collected and sorted: plastic waste is sent to be recycled, organic waste is used as compost or animal feed, and only what’s left goes to landfill.
Partnership for Plastic Waste Recycling
Fate was not kind to Siti Kusbandiah. When her husband died 20 years ago, she was left with no money or prospects for the future – and four children to raise. To earn a living, Kusbandiah turned to collecting waste.
Innovative Plastic Mulch Film Collection
Jin Shuqin has a vision: “I hope that we can work together to revitalise our earth, so that we have bluer skies, cleaner waters and better soil”. Shuqin heads the Research Center for Rural Economy in the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Affairs. Here, he works on solutions to reduce the impact of plastic mulch film on soil.
A Better Collection of Drinking Bottles
A quick coffee in a take-away cup from a café in the morning, water in a plastic bottle throughout the day and an energy drink in an aluminium can in the evening – our “on the go” lifestyle often means that we no longer drink exclusively from our cups and glasses at home.
In total, 5 to 13 million tons of plastic waste find their way into the world’s oceans every year.
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Residents of Libong Island strengthen plastic waste management after the death of dugong “Mariam”
Dugongs, or 'Duyung' as they are called by Libong islanders, are animals whose history with the people of Libong goes generations back.
A tale told by folk songs has it that there once was a fisherman who would bring home some seagrass for his heavily pregnant wife every time he went fishing. She was very fond of the taste of the seagrass and became so obsessed that one day she left home to forage for seagrass and never returned. She eventually turned into a mermaid or duyung bound to the sea, so the fisherman followed her into the sea as well.
This romantic story is written on a small sign in a corner of Hat Yao Pier, Trang. It reflects the deep connection between Trang residents and dugongs. Early in an overcast morning, the project team boarded a boat to follow up on another project on plastic waste disposal financed by the “Rethinking Plastics” project and implemented byIUCN and the residents of Libong.
"Trang is the largest source of seagrass in Thailand. The majority of Trang’s coastal zones are covered by mangrove forests with rich biodiversity. This includes seagrass meadows, which serve as nurseries for many marine species, as well as food sources for dugongs."
Save the date, 27 September: Rethinking Plastics Regional Closing Event
Ready for the journey? Only together can we navigate towards a future free from plastic pollution. On 27 September 2022, Rethinking Plastics warmly invites interested participants to attend the hybrid regional project closing event and join us on a journey along solutions, lessons learnt and results to reduce and prevent marine plastic litter now and in future.