The garbage piled up on the streets of Chennai. Photo by Shreyaa R
Launched earlier this month, Zero Waste Chennai is all about implementing a decentralized waste management system in the city and making Chennai sustainable and garbage-free in its 200 wards.
The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) and the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to kickstart the Zero Waste Chennai project, which is to be implemented for the first time in the city.
Speaking to Indianexpress.com about the MoU, Vamsi Shankar Kapilavai, a researcher at CAG says, “There is an emphasis for managing waste in a decentralised manner in Chennai since the two landfills, Kodungaiyur and Perungudi which are currently being used by the Greater Chennai Corporation have reached their maximum capacity, following which the idea for Zero Waste Chennai was conceived.”
The programme aims to individually cover all 15 zones in the city which comprise of 200 wards in total, following the success of the pilot which was implemented in Ward 100, Anna Nagar, earlier this month. Kapilavai says that they had conducted door to door campaigns during the pilot and is confident about the project.
Elaborating on the MoU, Kapilavai said that there are very few cities in India which have a decentralized waste management system and with this MoU, Chennai has now joined their ranks.
Managing waste in a decentralized manner involves dividing the waste management system into sub-systems among the 15 zones in Chennai, with each ward being able to manage the waste generated within the ward itself. This is where the Zero Waste Chennai programme kicks in.
“We break the system down into three parts – wet waste or organic waste, dry waste or non-biodegradable waste and sanitary waste. Our main target is to recycle 100 per cent of the wet waste through composting and 70 per cent of the dry waste. That part of the dry waste which cannot be recycled will have to be changed through design or by asking the producers to take back their products”, says Kapilavai. Currently, multi-layered plastic items which cannot be recycled are sent to incinerators and burnt, which is something that Zero Waste Chennai aims to change. As far as sanitary waste is concerned, they are being sent to the landfills since there are no facilities available to recycle sanitary napkins and diapers now.
“Either the design has to be changed or other sustainable menstruation methods need to be practised for managing sanitary waste”, he said.
CAG will be responsible for planning and managing the programme while the Greater Chennai Corporation will handle the execution. “Since we do not have the manpower to implement a programme of this scale, we will cross-check the implementation and monitor their performance through a review meeting which will be held once in two weeks”, he says.
Since this is the first time that waste segregation is being implemented in the city on a large scale, Kapilavai said that every morning, one woman, termed as ‘Animator’ under the Swacch Bharat Mission will accompany a tricycle on its rounds as it collects waste from 250 households a day. “Each ward has one animator and her task is to educate the residents about the segregation of waste and its importance and teach them to segregate waste”.
At present, CAG is focusing on ward 100 while the Greater Chennai Corporation is focusing on developing its infrastructure and getting them back on track for Zero Waste Chennai. Kapilavai says that once the system is in place, it will be handed over to the zonal officers to implement in their respective wards.
Going forward, Kapilavai says that apartment complexes should soon have their own waste management systems in places before getting a permit for construction. “An apartment which has more than 50 flats is considered to be a bulk waste generator, so as per the rule, they need to have their own waste management system in place. We are in talks with the Greater Chennai Corporation to implement this”, says the researcher.
While changing the mindset of people could be an arduous task, Kapilavai said that with continuous education, follow up and perseverance, waste segregation will become ingrained into the lives of the people. “It is all about ground contact”, he concluded.
In November 2018, Greenpeace experts assessed the level of plastic pollution in the Black and Azov Seas. On the beaches 13,000 fragments were found, ranging from tiny pieces of unknown origin to 100 kilogram ship ropes.
The main sources of pollution are tourists, waste from other countries brought by currents, and maritime shipping.
Most of the plastic found is determined to be single-use packaging or goods. In the Black Sea, the share of such plastic is almost 68%, on the Azov Sea – up to 90%. The main pollutant of the latter was bottles, and the Black Sea coast was filled with styrofoam.
“We have now witnessed that plastic pollution is a real problem for the Black and Azov seas. On the hundred-meter sections of the coast, we found from 435 to 3,501 pieces of plastic. Even the borders of the Utrish nature reserve are littered. We found 1,001 plastic pieces in one monitored area and 2,991 pieces in the other. This is mainly one-off goods, packaging and bags that are all trash we can consciously avoid. Today in Russia there is no regulations over plastic pollution of the environment. There are no holistic measures to prevent it. Greenpeace urges the Government of the Russian Federation to develop a national system for monitoring plastic contamination and approve a list of single-use goods, containers and packaging that should be banned step by step. We cannot resolve this issue otherwise,” says Alexander Ivannikov, an expert at the Zero Waste project of Greenpeace Russia.
Interestingly, the more difficult it was for people to have access to an area, the higher its level of plastic contamination was. This may be due to the fact that such areas are less likely to be cleaned, while debris is still washed ashore.
Single-use plastic items pollute the environment, decompose for hundreds of years and harm animals. Sea inhabitants and birds often become its victims, mistaking pieces of plastic for food or getting entangled in them. According to the British government, plastic ends up in stomachs of 31 species of marine mammals and 100 species of seabirds.
On the method
During the expedition, Greenpeace experts used the methodology for monitoring marine debris on the beaches, which was developed by the DeFishGear project. The data collected was one of the reasons for the European Commission to ban certain types of plastic products.
According to the methodology, Greenpeace experts chose hundred-meter areas (polygons): 5 – on the Black Sea coast and 3 – on the Sea of Azov. From the surface of polygons, visually distinguishable fragments of plastic were collected, their number was counted, they were weighed and sorted by purpose / type of product.
Plus: Pacific Island nation to enact world’s first disposable diaper ban, and waste giant Biffa convicted of exporting household trash to China.
UPDATE: July 2, 2019: G20 members have set a goal of reducing additional marine plastic leakage to zero by 2050, according to a declaration released Saturday. The “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” encourages countries to adopt a “comprehensive life-cycle approach” that addresses oean plastic pollution via “innovative solutions” and improved waste management — “while recognizing the important role of plastics for society.”
Activists criticized the goal’s distant target date and lack of legally-binding steps, as reported by Reuters — as well as its failure to take aim at plastics production.
“The G20’s final declaration shows that it considers the plastic pollution crisis through a narrow, end-of-pipe lens,” Sirine Rached, a global policy advocate at Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, said in a statement. “It only mentions marine impacts as if plastic pollution was not also in our freshwater, in our soils, in our air. It only seeks to improve waste management and reduce discharge of plastic to the oceans, instead of focusing on reducing the absurd amount of plastics in our economies.”
“Such narrow, end-of-pipe measures make no sense when we know that plastic production is set to increase exponentially in coming years,” she added. “Many politicians are trying to surf the wave of public concern around plastic pollution, but we’re seeing very little genuine leadership.”
Japan has lofty goals for the G20 summit, which kicks off today in Osaka — including the establishment of an international framework for addressing marine plastics. The issue was a focal point at a summit meeting in Karuizawa earlier this month, where G20 environment ministers agreed to share and promote best practices for reducing ocean plastic pollution, as reported by DW.
While G20 members are expected to endorse the deal this weekend, environmentalists stress that the framework — which lacks numerical objectives and timelines — is only the first of many necessary steps toward mitigating marine litter.
“[G]iven the critical situation of ocean pollution with plastics, it is urgently needed to set up legally binding action plans with clear timelines and goals,” Greenpeace Japan’s Hiroaki Odachi told Agence France-Presse.
Japan’s own environmental record has also drawn scrutiny ahead of the summit. For all its recent rhetoric on plastics reduction, Japan (along with the U.S.) refused to sign last year’s G-7 Ocean Plastics Charter, which would have committed it to reusing, recycling or recovering all plastics by 2030. The country is the second largest generator per capita of plastic packaging waste (the U.S. is number one), according to a 2018 UN Environment report. As reported by The Washington Post, approximately 60,000 tons of the world’s 12.7 million annual tons of marine plastics come from Japan.
“In a country where cleanliness and neat packaging have long been considered good service, almost everything, from single bananas to individual pieces of vegetables, pastries, pens and cosmetics is sold plastic-wrapped,” Alex Barreira and Haruka Nuga noted this week in the Post.
That love affair with plastics, however, might be fizzling. China’s scrap ban has left Japan (which previously exported 1.5 million tons of plastic scrap per year — mostly to China) with rapidly dwindling options.
The Japanese government has announced plans to expand domestic recycling infrastructure. Meanwhile, retailers will be required to charge for single-use plastic bags as early as next April, according to the Guardian — a move deemed inadequate by critics, who cite the existence of various nationwide bans on single-use plastics. Local governments are arguably taking stronger action: the town of Kameoka, for instance, will ban almost 800 retailers from handing out single-use plastic bags starting next year, while the village of Kamikatsu is aiming to become Japan’s first “zero waste” community by 2020.
AROUND THE WORLD
Pacific Island nation to implement world’s first disposable diaper ban — The Guardian
Japan may be positioning itself as a global leader in the fight against marine litter, but it’s another island nation that’s taking some of the bold steps toward eradicating plastic waste. Vanuatu, which has one of the world’s strictest single-use plastics bans, has announced a new ban on disposable diapers — believed to be the first of its kind.
The country was deemed a “champion” nation at a London meeting last week for its efforts in combating the climate and ocean pollution crises — but the reception back home hasn’t been quite as glowing. The proposed diaper ban has sparked outrage from various groups, who argue that the measure would set women — the country’s primary caregivers — back by decades.
But Vanuatu, which is waging an existential war against the ravages of climate change and rising sea levels, may have no choice, says the government.
“Vanuatu is safeguarding its future,” said Mike Masauvakalo of the ministry of foreign affairs. “Eventually, plastics find their way into the water and the food chain and at the end of the day, the people of Vanuatu end up consuming [them].”
“It is a long road ahead,” he added. “But knowing my country, we will work it out. Vanuatu is very vocal about the climate emergency. It is visible, we are living it.”
Biffa Waste Services, it appears, has been up to some rotten misdeeds. The UK waste management company was found guilty this week of violating overseas exports laws — specifically, for shipping seven 25-metric ton containers of household trash to China.
Exporting unsorted household waste from the UK to China — in this case, everything from used diapers to unused condoms to a 12-inch record by ’90s darlings Deee-Lite — has been illegal since 2006. Biffa, however, managed to circumvent that particular roadblock by slapping a “waste paper” label on its May and June 2015 shipments.
According to enforcement manager Sarah Mills, Biffa’s exports “contained a totally unacceptable level of contamination with other waste.”
“The waste contained offensive material likely to have been discarded by the receiving country, at great risk and cost to the environment and people,” she said in a statement.
Sentencing has been deferred until Sept. 27. The court was told that Biffa and the Environment Agency had agreed to a criminal penalty of £9,912 — approximately $12,560.
You've heard about plastic in the ocean, but what's really going on under the sea? Bonnie Monteleone from @ThePlasticOcean explains her studies of marine plastic samples and how sea life is affected.https://t.co/wI3ZdCANrR
(2 June 2019 Press release) Worldwide, over 8 million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped into the oceans every year, and beverage plastic bottles are the most commonly found type of waste during beach clean-up activities that serve as a good indicator of marine plastic waste.
The Green Earth has launched the ‘Short-Lived Plastic’ Plastic Bottle Brand Research in July 2018. Since then, 43 beach clean-up activities have been conducted in 25 locations, covering Hong Kong Island, New Territories, and the Outlying Islands. Out of the 11,321 bottles collected in our study, 7,945 bottles were categorized by brands and a total of 287 brands were identified. The group was unable to identify the brands of the remaining 3,376 bottles due to the missing of labels and/or bottle caps.
Based on our research findings, C’estbon, which is owned by the mainland Chinese brand China Resources, accounted for the most bottles collected. This was followed by Swire Coca-Cola series, Vita series, Watsons Water series, and mainland Chinese brand Master Kong respectively.
Among the traditional Chinese labelling brands, Vita ranked the first, followed by Coca-Cola and Watsons Water. These three brands have accounted for 75% of the total bottles collected (3,919 bottles).
Apart from the ranking, The Green Earth has discovered the following main points:
Finding 1. Regarding bottles wrapped with traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese character labels, each accounts for 48% of the total number of bottles found, and the remaining 4% was of other languages, which reflects that the Hong Kong shorelines are greatly affected by marine wastes generated in mainland China and should be addressed.
While mainland China is the country that generates the most marine plastic waste in the world, we should apply four ways at the same time to tackle the issue: 1. To launch the producer responsibility regulation for beverage packaging as soon as possible; 2. Before the implementation of the regulation, the mainland Chinese drink manufacturers such as C’estbon, Master Kong, etc. should set aggressive plastic reduction goals; 3. To improve waste collection and recycling facilities; 4. To improve cooperation, monitoring, and reporting system between Guangdong authorities and the Hong Kong SAR government, so as to prevent plastic wastes and household waste from entering the rivers and the oceans.
Most of the international beverage manufacturers have launched and implemented plastic reduction measures. Local brands such as Swire Coca-Cola, Vita, and Watsons Water have also announced their plastic reduction target that is to recycle 70-90% of their beverage bottles by 2025. We urge the mainland Chinese brands to catch up and do not fall behind the trend.
In Hong Kong, the recycling rate of PET beverage bottles remains low throughout the years, with a recycling rate of only 6.8% in 2017. The Green Earth believes there is an urgent need for the Environmental Protection Department to conclude the consultancy study of the plastic bottle producer responsibility scheme, and to move on to the next step – legislation development.
Finding 2. According to the classification of drink types, non-water drinks such as soft drink, juice, and tea only account for 33% (2,580 bottles), while water, including both mineral and distilled water, accounts for 67% (5,151 bottles).
The Green Earth points out that the number of waste bottled water can be greatly reduced with the quicker introduction of water dispensers to be installed widely in the community and wider use of reusable water bottles by the public. Beverage producers should consider changing the format of sales from selling drinks in single-use plastic bottles to dispensing facilities.
The Green Earth would like to emphasize that an average of 20,000 disposable beverage plastic bottles are sold every second worldwide, with most of the used bottles being dumped at landfills and a very small portion have got properly recycled. We believe the most effective solution is to reduce at source, avoid purchasing single-use beverage plastic bottles, and recycle properly in case of unavoidable purchase.
To address the ocean plastic waste problems, The Green Earth urges:
1. Support ‘Short-Lived Plastic’ Plastic Bottle Brand Research to continuously monitor the plastic packaging industry. Details: http://greenearth-hk.org/plasticwaste/
2. Apart from plastic bottles, we are also expanding our monitoring coverage to plastic packaging, and the result will be released in August;
3. On 8 June ‘World Ocean Day’, we will be conducting beach clean-up and brand research in the Plover Cover Reservoir. Details: https://forms.gle/Zs6JyxofxXNypdBN7
Clean-up survey sites:
Hong Kong Island: Cape D’aguilar, Shek O Tai Tau Chau.
New Territories: Yuen Long -– Ha Pak Nai; Tuen Mun – Lung Kwu Tan; Lai Chi Wo; Crooked Island; Sha Tau Kok – Wu Shek Kok, Tai Po – Sha Lan, Sam Mun Tsai, Yuen Chau Tsai Park; Plover Cover Reservoir; Sai Kung – Pak Sha Chau, Yeung Chau, Chuk Kok, Little Palm Beach, Cham Tau Chau.
Outlying Islands: Lantau Island – Tung Chung River, Tai O, Shui Hau, Tung Ping Chau, Sunshine Island; Lamma Island – Yung Shue Ha Village, Pak Kap Hang; Tung Lung Chau – Kai Yue Tam, Tathong Point.
Special Thanks to:
GoGo Clean Up, Lantau Buffalo Association, Association for Sha Tau Kok Culture and Ecology, Coastal Conservation Hong Kong, NatureSprites, Gaomad Yeah, Trailwatch, Green Sense, Tung Lung Chau, Typhoon Mangkhut aftermath clean up group (Tung Lau Chau), YC Leung, Kitti, Kammy Lai.
The Green Earth – Executive Director Edwin Lau; Director of Environmental Advocacy Hahn Chu; Project Officer Mandy Cheung; 37088380
Plastic Bottle found after Super Typhoon Mangkhut. The metal cap shows it is 30-year old plus.
Coca-cola’s plastic bottle is so abundant among marine garbage. (Photo 1 of 2)
Coca-cola series plastic bottle is so abundent among marine garbage. (Photo 2 of 2)
Chinese Brand C’estbon gets the first place in the survey
Volunteering doing brands survey
Vita series accounted for the most bottles collected
We got a tonne of Vita’s water bottles
Volunteers picking up recognizable bottles for brand survey
Volunteers picking up recognizable bottles for brand survey
The majority we see here goes to C’estbon (Photo 2 of 2)
Sorting out by brands
Got a thousand of bottles in half day at Tung Lung Chau, mindblowing. (Photo Credits: Typhoon Mangkhut aftermath clean up group (Tung Lau Chau)
Got a thousand of bottles in half day at Tung Lung Chau, mindblowing. (Photo Credits: Typhoon Mangkhut aftermath clean up group (Tung Lau Chau)
‘In 2019, plastic production and incineration will add over 850m metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere – equivalent to the emissions from 189 coal-fired power plants.’ Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters
Every stage of the plastic lifecycle releases harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere, contributing to global heating.
Plastics are among the most ubiquitous materials in our economy, our lives, and our environment. They are also among the most pervasive and persistent pollutants on Earth.
In recent years, stark images of beaches, waterways and wildlife filled with plastic have spurred demands for action to address plastic pollution. These calls are coupled with growing concern that plastic and its toxic additives pose serious risks to human health at every stage of the plastic lifecycle. Far less attention has been paid to the impacts of this same lifecycle on the Earth’s climate. This is a dangerous oversight.
From catastrophic wildfires in California to searing heatwaves and record drought in India, the scale and growing severity of the climate crisis are undeniable. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that humanity must limit warming below 1.5C or face far greater and potentially irreversible climate chaos. To achieve this, we must cut global emissions 45% by 2030 and reach zero net emissions by 2050.
A recent report by the Center for International Environmental Law and partners shows that plastic’s rapidly rising emissions put these critical goals at risk. In 2019, plastic production and incineration will add over 850m metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere – equivalent to the emissions from 189 coal-fired power plants. By 2050, these emissions could rise to 2.8bn metric tons, equivalent to 615 new coal plants.
Why are these emissions growing so rapidly? Because plastics are made almost entirely from fossil fuels. Natural gas, oil and coal account for 99% of what goes into plastic. Thus, plastic’s climate impacts begin not in the oceans, but at the wellheads and drillpads where plastic is born.
Moreover, refining those raw materials into plastic is among the most energy- and carbon-intensive of all industrial processes. In 2015, just 24 ethylene facilities in the United States emitted as much carbon dioxide as 3.8m passenger vehicles. Globally fracking to produce ethylene produced as many emissions as 45m passenger vehicles.
If growth continues on its present trajectory, plastics could creat 56bn metric tons in greenhouse emissions by 2050
The North American fracking boom is poised to make this situation much worse. Fueled by cheap fracked gas, Exxon, Shell and other petrochemical producers are massively expanding the infrastructure for making plastic. The American Chemistry Council projects that the industry will invest over $200bn in more than 330 new or expanded facilities by 2025. Just one of these facilities, a massive ethane cracker being built by Shell in Pennsylvania, could emit up to 2.25m tons of CO2yearly.
Nor do emissions end once plastic’s useful life is over. While the carbon emissions associated with recycling are minimal, less than 9% of plastic is recycled annually. Effective recycling rates are lower still. As indicated by China’s recent ban on plastic waste imports, much of the plastic waste that has been sent to Asia for recycling has no economic value. It was and always has been just trash. In the face of China’s import ban, communities are increasingly turning to incineration as the way to deal with that trash. This incineration alone could add 4bn metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere by 2050.
If growth continues on its present trajectory, plastic production, use and disposal could create 56bn metric tons in cumulative greenhouse emissions by 2050 – consuming a staggering 13% of the Earth’s entire remaining carbon budget.
The climate impact of plastic that escapes into the environment is harder to quantify, but may be even more significant. Research demonstrates that the 57tn microplastic particles at the ocean’s surface continually release small amounts of greenhouse gases – and will continue doing so indefinitely. The climate impacts of this are difficult to quantify because those surface particles represent only a fraction of 1% of plastic in the ocean. Nor do they include the massive amounts of plastic on beaches, riverbanks and farmlands worldwide that are releasing greenhouse gases even faster.
More troublingly, scientists have found that microplastics are interacting with and often negatively affecting plankton in ocean basins worldwide. These microscopic plants and animals form the foundation of ocean ecosystems and also create the biological carbon pump that makes the oceanic carbon sink function. This raises the currently unquantifiable but deeply troubling prospect that rising plastic pollution could disrupt the Earth’s largest natural carbon sink, further accelerating the climate crisis.
Whether measured by its impacts on the climate, environment, or human health, the rising flood of disposable plastic creates risks humanity can no longer accept.
Just as the roots of the climate and plastic crises are interlinked, so too are their solutions. Simply put, it’s time to break free from plastic. We must end the production of single-use, disposable plastic, stop the development of new oil, gas and petrochemical infrastructure, and accelerate the transition to sustainable, circular economies and zero-waste communities.
Carroll Muffett is the president of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). Article from The Guardian.
BANGKOK – Environmental groups called on Tuesday for Southeast Asian countries to ban waste imports from developed countries to help tackle a plastic pollution crisis, as regional leaders prepare to meet this week in Bangkok.
Southeast Asia has seen a staggering spike in imports of plastic and electronic waste from developed countries after the world’s top recycler, China, banned imports, causing millions of tonnes of trash to be diverted to less-regulated countries.
Thailand will from Thursday host four days of meetings for leaders of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to discuss the region’s most pressing issues, including plastic debris in the ocean.
“Greenpeace Southeast Asia demands that ASEAN leaders put this issue on the agenda during their summits this year and make a united declaration to address the region’s plastic waste crisis,” the group said in a statement.
“Declare an immediate ban on all imports of plastic waste,” Greenpeace urged.
It was in the interests of ASEAN, whose meetings are being held under the theme of sustainability this year, to ban waste trading, said a Thai environmental group.
“Welcoming plastics and electronic waste from abroad in the name of development must urgently end,” said Penchom Saetang, director of Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand (EARTH) Foundation.
Some Southeast Asian countries have in recent months been taking action to stem the flow of trash.
Indonesia was the latest to reject trash imports from Canada, following similar moves by Malaysia and the Philippines.
Thailand does not ban plastic waste imports, but it aims to end them by 2020. It imposes partial bans on electronic scrap.
Greenpeace also urged ASEAN countries to ratify amendments to the 30-year-old Basel Convention, a U.N. treaty on the movement and disposal of hazardous waste, to limit the flow of plastic scrap to developing countries.
“We have to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment … to prevent ASEAN member states from becoming the world’s dumping sites in the future, or actually as it is happening now,” said Tara Buakamsri, Greenpeace Thailand’s country director.
The group also urged Southeast Asian leaders to reduce the production of single-use plastic.
ASEAN will adopt a Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris during the summit, Junever Mahilum-West, a senior Philippine foreign ministry official, told a news conference in Manila earlier on Tuesday.
The leaders of Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, four of the world’s top marine plastic polluters, after China, are attending the ASEAN meeting.
Those five countries account for up to 60 percent of plastic waste leaking into oceans, the environmental group Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment said in a 2015 report.
Whales have been found dead in the region in recent years with large amounts of plastic rubbish in their stomachs.