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Infrastructure needed for plastic circularity

Aug 09, 2023

Bangladesh needs to establish the required infrastructure to efficiently collect, store and recycle plastic products in order to achieve circularity in the industry, speakers said at a seminar.

Numerous economies are working towards circularity in the plastics industry so that products made from the synthetic material can be reused, recycled or refurbished, thereby ensuring lower pollution.

As such, improving waste management while also increasing consumer awareness on the post-use environmental impact of plastics could help bring the industry into a circular model, they said.

These comments came at a seminar, styled "Innovation for Plastic Circularity", organised by Unilever Bangladesh Limitedand the Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BPGMEA).

The event was held at the Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel in Dhaka yesterday.

"At the policy level, it would be possible to prepare an action plan for reducing plastic pollution if all stakeholders are involved in the planning process," said Zaved Akhtar, CEO of Unilever Bangladesh.

Numerous economies are working towards circularity in the plastics industry so that products made from the synthetic material can be reused, recycled or refurbished

He then pointed out that Singapore has been able to reduce, regulate and increase its overall plastic recycling by creating the Plastic Packaging Council to control plastic use and pollution in the country.

"Since plastic is a recyclable material, our priority should be to establish circularity through design innovation," Akhtar added.

Bangladesh's annual per capita plastic consumption in urban areas rose from 3 kilogrammes (kgs) in 2005 to 9 kgs in 2020.

The rate is particularly high in Dhaka, where each individual consumes roughly 24 kgs of plastic materials each year.

And although plastic products have their benefits, the mismanagement of plastic waste is increasing environmental pollution.

The domestic market for plastics was worth $4 billion in fiscal 2022-23, registering growth of about 20 percent year-on-year, as per BPGMEA data.

"We want rapid development while protecting the environment at the same time, which is difficult," said Planning Minister MA Mannan, adding that it falls on the government to balance these two issues.

Amin Helaly, senior vice president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said there is no alternative to the use of plastic.

"The more we get into industrial growth and urbanisation, the more significant plastic use becomes for manufacturing and production. But uncontrolled plastic wastage is harming the environment tremendously," he said.

At present, just 40 percent of the plastics used are being recycled, meaning that a major portion is still wasted.

"So, innovative ideas are needed to decrease this percentage," Helaly said.

"There are a vast number of industries that are not maintaining proper recycling or reusing of plastic, which is causing pollution and a number of health issues," he added.

Shamim Ahmed, president of the BPGMEA, said the rate of plastic consumption is increasing every year.

"So, if this problem is not solved now, the future will not be good," he added.

Sheikh Muhammad Tauhidul Islam, CEO of the Chattogram City Corporation, said plastic waste management is becoming more challenging every day.

"If the common people are not aware, the situation will only get worse," Islam added.

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on the environment, forest and climate change, said a visionary policy is needed for circularity in the plastics industry.

"This is a big challenge for the government," he added, citing how another issue is that there are many laws in place for preventing plastic waste, but not many of them are being implemented.