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.
Sri Lanka generates an estimated 6,700 metric tons of waste daily – out of which only 2,800 is collected. The absence of an efficient system to clean up the waste has brought about a need to create a well-organized waste management system in Sri-Lanka to avoid the spread of toxic chemicals and pollution in the environment.
PROMISE is a private sector partnership (PSP) project between DEG and Holcim (Lanka) Geocycle Limited, in partnership with ASSIST, that aimed to provide an appropriate solution to the unorganised dumping and burning of waste in Sri Lanka. Thus, a waste management complex was set up at the Seeduwa dump site – which is surrounded by two key industrial zones called Katunayake and Biyagama, the country’s largest housing scheme called Raddolugama and the main airport in Sri Lanka (Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport).
ASSIST undertook various interventions to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of PROMISE. The waste management complex included a fully operational material receiving and segregating site. Training was facilitated for the surrounding communities, municipal / government offices, and urban councils. Green clubs promoting proper waste management and green bank facilities for collecting waste were set up in local schools and universities. Involving households and neighbourhoods in the establishment of a waste management ecosystem was essential to the project’s success.
As part of the initiative to develop H&M’s “Green Industry” strategy for the garment supply chains of Cambodia & Myanmar, ASSIST conducted a mapping of the existing stakeholders on renewable energy.
ASSIST conducted mapping studies and generated reports on solid waste, renewable energy, and water saving technologies. The reports provided a description of the subject’s current conditions in the country, the existing stakeholders and key players and the national solutions/technologies available. The reports also offer a more detailed analysis of the subject specifically in the context of the country’s garment industry and recommend relevant actions for the sector. Following those 6 reports (3 in Cambodia, 3 in Myanmar), H&M requested ASSIST replicate the studies in Vietnam.