Plastic bags create a significant environmental impact and lead to economic burdens. About 25 million tonnes of plastic were produced in 2010 alone and 90% of trash floating in the ocean consists of plastic, which is 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. Over 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds die each year due to plastic. Sri Lanka, being an island country, faces the serious concern of oceanic pollution.
One successful way to reduce the number of plastic bags in circulation is to replace them with biodegradable bags which offer a suitable alternative. REPLACE, co-financed by DEG and implemented by BASF Lanka and ASSIST, demonstrated the ease and benefits of switching to biodegradable materials for plastic production. The objective of this project was to encourage the use of compostable bags and effectively manage organic and biodegradable waste in Sri Lanka. The project aimed to do this by increasing awareness among government policy makers, major stakeholders and users on the environmentally harmful and damaging consequences of non-degradable plastic and the importance of waste segregation at the source.
As part of the project initiative, an awareness station was inaugurated on World Environment Day (June 5) in Good Market, Colombo to create awareness among the public about the need to switch to certified compostable plastic bags. University students / volunteers were engaged to facilitate the educational session and conduct surveys to collect feedback from the participants. Apart from Good Market, awareness stations were also set up at some of the prominent retail stores in Sri Lanka. Other activities included the conducting of road shows and seminars. These activities drew more than 15,000 participants from hotels, shopping malls, retailers and government agencies. Two producers / converters to biodegradable plastic bags were identified and were given trainings to produce the biodegradable bags while many more were encouraged to make the shift.