Tackling Plastic Pollution
At human convenience, we quench our thirst from home or office dispensers. We also at times prefer ‘take away’ beverages. In public gatherings, fast food outlets and coffee cafes, we get served using disposable cups and plates. It looks trendy, fashionable and offers a great sense of comfort. Oblivious of the fate of the packaging used, the habit has come to haunt us in the disguise of public waste. It is taunting us, the human littering species.
Continued production, use and disposal of plastic has led to the accumulation of plastics in the surrounding environment thus creating health and ecological concerns. There is need to curb plastic waste by producing less, consuming less or by managing our waste in better ways. It calls for the involvement of the chief players in the plastic economy: the consumers, businesses manufacturers, raw material producers, converters, brand owners and recyclers.
Such efforts also include embracing the policy of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). It is a concept aimed at extending producers responsibility for their products to the post-consumer stage of their products lifecycle. The policy integrates environmental costs that arise from plastic bottles life cycles into the market costs by shifting the responsibility from the government to the private industry. It is either on mandatory basis or voluntary initiative to avert the punitive measures of economic instruments of waste management and command and control approach used by the government.
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One such application is the formation of Producer Responsibility Organizations (PRO) that are joint industrial efforts to self-regulate post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET), cans and glass. They are industrial driven and financed environmental solutions for plastics and other non-biodegradable waste. PROs’ are financed by voluntary recycling fee contributed by the industrial players. It ensures an ongoing monetary value for post-consumer plastic bottles.
This sustains a collection interest and reduces the waste of post-consumer in the main stream waste. Consumer and education awareness initiatives promote environmental responsibility and encourages plastic bottle recycling. Together with other alternative approaches, such as the Deposit Refund System, they can greatly reduce the impact of plastic pollution.
Extended Producer Responsibility are alternative policy instruments that are integral in funding basic waste management services. They are a growing secondary resource to developing economies that are driving job creation and enterprise development.
By Arnold Muthanga