Recycling not solution to plastic wastes – says environmental conservation lobby group

An environmental lobby group has put into question Kenya’s ability to put to rest the plastic waste menace by 2030.

According to the group, Greenpeace Africa, a recent report by the Kenya Plastics Pact to ensure all plastic packaging in the country is recyclable in eight years’ time is too ambitious and unattainable.

Communication Director Hellen Dena claims the country’s production of plastic materials currently outstrips her ability to recycle the wastes.

Kenya Plastics Pact which brings together stakeholders across the plastic value chain recently published a roadmap plan whose objective is to ensure all plastic packaging in the country is recyclable or reusable by the year 2030.

The plan by the pact’s business members and other supporters is to ensure that 40 percent of plastic packaging is effectively recycled by that time.

“Data shows we can’t recycle our way out of the plastics crisis. Recycling does not match the scale of the plastic that’s being produced, which is one of the reasons why only nine per cent of all the plastic waste produced has been recycled. With plastic production projected to increase in the coming years, Kenya will never be able to solve this crisis with only recycling,” said Dena through a press statement sent to newsrooms.

The group similarly avers that even from highly developed countries with huge investments in recycling and advanced technology, the recycling rate falls short of 50 per cent with a minimal percentage of it finally being converted back to packaging.

Greenpeace has also blamed big plastic producers by accusing them of being behind the plastic pollution threat in the country.

Dena opines that as long as large companies continue with mass production of plastic products, the challenge of addressing the problem will never be solved.

“While efforts by different stakeholders in reducing plastic pollution is critical and is a clear indication of a growing trend, it isn’t enough to solve the cascade of plastic pollution in the country. The real culprits are the big polluters. As long as the companies responsible for this plastic crisis do not stop the massive production of this toxic substance, the urban landscape, the oceans and the ecosystem in general will continue to be threatened,” reads the statement.

“Kenya has been grappling with the impacts of single-use plastics for many years now. In most of the urban areas across the country, plastic waste is clogging the waterways leading to floods and destruction. Scientists have also found micro-plastics in the food we eat, the water we drink and even in human blood. While the overall effects are not yet known, micro-plastics are known to damage human cells; there are concerns they could affect immune functions,” the statement continues.

Greenpeace now says the best remedy for the current crisis is to commit the biggest polluters and other stakeholders to step up and drive change by investing in alternative delivery channels and packaging that prioritise refill and reuse models.

It also wants members of the Plastic Pact to work towards achieving an effective legally-binding global plastics treaty to cap and reduce production, use and ultimately end single-use plastic pollution in coming years.

Kenya, just like many developing countries is facing an environmental crisis owing to an increase in plastic pollution that has threatened both land and marine life. For instance, Nairobi alone generates about 3,207 tonnes of waste daily, according to the UN-Habitat.

Globally, plastic leakage to the environment is seen doubling to 44 million tonnes a year, while the build-up of plastics in lakes, rivers and oceans will more than triple, as plastic waste balloons from 353 million tonnes in 2019 million tonnes in 2060.

Most pollution comes from larger debris known as macro plastics, but leakage of micro-plastics (synthetic polymers less than 5 mm in diameter) from items like industrial plastic pellets, textiles and tyre wear has also been found to be of serious concern.

A Global Plastics Outlook Policy Scenarios to 2060 Report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), notes that without radical action to curb demand, increase product lifespans and improve waste management and recyclability, plastic pollution will rise in tandem with an almost threefold increase in plastics use driven by rising populations and incomes.

The report further estimates that almost two-thirds of plastic waste in 2060 will be from short-lived items such as packaging, low-cost products and textiles.

“If we want a world that is free of plastic pollution, in line with the ambitions of the United Nations Environment Assembly, we will need to take much more stringent and globally coordinated action,” said OECD Secretary-General, Mathias Cormann in the report released in February this year.

“This report proposes concrete policies that can be implemented along the lifecycle of plastics that could significantly curb – and even eliminate – plastic leakage into the environment,” added the report.



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