Plastic was once promoted as a wonderful substance because of its versatility. But slowly, as their environmental impacts have come to light, people are having doubts.
Although plastic owes its invention and early adoption to the developed world, the dangers of plastic pollution cannot be seen as a problem only in the richest countries.
With the decline in poverty and the resulting disposable income, developing countries are also experiencing an increase driven by the consumption of plastic waste.
What makes the situation serious in most developing countries is the lack of waste management infrastructure.
Once known as the largest importer of American plastic waste, even advanced developing nations like China are struggling.
China took most of the plastic scrap from around the world for a long time.
But last year, he banned accepting the world's used plastic.
The seriousness of the situation is also represented by the recent decision of the Indian government to reverse a general ban on single-use plastic, citing the paralyzing effect it could have on the supply chain and industry in an economy that already It is slowing down. India has now changed the strategy to gradual elimination.
Least developed countries (LDCs) such as Nepal are even more vulnerable, since most plastic waste is burned outdoors or ends up in landfills.
With a carefree population that has no choice but to accept plastic containers, plastic pollution is now a threatening problem.
In Nepal, the proportion of plastic waste among the total waste produced is estimated to be around 16 percent.
According to a 2018 study conducted by the German development agency GIZ, Nepal produces approximately 15,000 tons of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) waste per year.
There is also a shortage of laws and regulations related to waste management and recycling, aggravated by the lack of an adequate budget for it.
At the national level, the waste management infrastructure is made up of poorly organized waste collector teams assigned to the localities.
It is known that these companies use public land or river banks to classify and recover plastic and other useful solid waste.
With a limited local recycling and recycling infrastructure, a large amount of what can be rescued is sold to local waste collectors and the waste eventually arrives at the recycling facilities in India. The rest is transported to landfills.
However, India's ban on such imports from 2016 has meant that local collectors face more problems since they now have to rely on informal routes.
A conversational interview with a contractor, who employs people who work in precarious conditions in Dhobi Khola banks, confirmed that the prices of waste materials, including plastic, have been reduced due to excess supply.
As in the West, the rhetoric about plastic pollution in developing countries has focused on consumers and not producers.
This is partly due to the stellar work of industry lobbyists. In fact, it is easier to blame the habits of collective individuals rather than being accused.
In addition, industries have formed the habit of financing research for plastic alternatives as a way to avoid the negative press.
It is also known that some of the main actors openly state that they have helped create jobs by supporting a recycling industry. Therefore, recycling has received more attention than reducing production at the source.
In addition, it is known that industries in developing countries exploit weak regulations and casually introduce packaging strategies that involve plastic materials.
Given this, it is important to first design a clear waste strategy and decide whether Nepal should focus solely on recycling or also reducing the use of plastic materials in the supply chain.
The amount of plastic that Nepal produces is not considered significant enough for large-scale investment in recycling.
In addition, it will take some time before the plastic alternatives are feasible. Therefore, one idea is to obtain opportunities for sustainable income from recycled waste.
There are innovative ideas to protect waste. For example, "energy waste" plants process solid waste, including plastic, to produce non-intermittent electricity.
Waste collected through this method is stored in bunkers to remove moisture and burns at around 1,000C (1832F) to produce heat, which in turn spins steam turbines to produce electricity.
The process also captures polluting gases and converts them into inert material without causing great pollution. The burned residue can be converted into bricks and bitumen.
This technology seems very suitable, since it makes productive use of waste that would otherwise have been directed to landfills and is also a viable substitute for highly polluting coal and diesel thermal combustion plants.
However, the recycling infrastructure itself is a logistical nightmare and requires an expensive and complex waste management infrastructure.
It also requires public engagement, since the classification of waste often begins at the domestic level.
Instead, it would be appropriate to work with a double approach.
It is necessary to change the attitudes of consumers discouraging single-use plastic. Restaurants are gradually replacing straws and plastic stirrers with alternatives made of paper and metal.
Cities around the world are installing water sources to discourage single-use water bottles. In addition, the current focus in Nepal seems to be in plastic bags.
Customers should also know plastics that look different, such as polyester, nylon and acrylic commonly used in clothing and footwear.
In addition, a less expensive and simultaneous solution would be to target packaging strategies and supply chains.
This should be done gradually: industries must have sufficient time for the transition.
However, the responsibility lies with the industries to gradually adopt plastic and biodegradable alternatives to assist in the rapid reduction of waste at its source.
The Kathmandu / Asia News Network publication