How To Efficiently Manage And Minimize Plastic Waste At The Government Level

The negative impact of plastic waste to our health and on our environment has been pretty evident. Be it the increasing respiratory issues due to air pollution from burning plastic, shortened life spans of animals owing to plastic consumption, or even the littered plastic clogging drains and contaminating our environment; the effects are severe even on a city level. Something needs to be done.

There are many ways to curb plastic waste, from producing and consuming less to better management of existing waste, thus preventing contamination. Fortunately, taking action regarding plastic waste is something we can do at all levels—citizens, communities, businesses, and governments. While the solutions may vary at each level, increased awareness, policy solutions, improved disposal processes, etc. are imperative to change behaviour and better manage plastic waste.

Here are some interesting interventions that are being made by different governments at the city level:

Holistic plastic waste ecosystems

One of the most effective ways would be to improve the core waste management system, thus controlling plastic waste at its very source. For instance, the Maldives, a country renowned for its coral reefs and beaches, has been facing increasing amounts of waste and litter in its ecosystems. To address the same, the country is investing in a sustainable disposal infrastructure which improves waste collection systems by splitting the islands into zones so as to make the most efficient use of shared resources.

Incentivization of recycled plastic

Even the simplest solutions pursued by local communities such as making use of recycled plastic as cement block fillers, ropes, and other household goods like baskets and mats can bring significant difference. At the same time on a larger scale, manufacturers can use recycled plastic to make clothing and furniture, etc. Therefore, using recycled plastic for products with monetary value including clothing, shoes, and construction material etc., society can be incentivized and put to productive use both in local and global capacities.

Adequate policy and planning

Upon putting in place adequate collection and disposal systems, cities can pursue focused interventions like banning certain types of plastic. For instance, California’s ban on plastic led to a significant 72% decrease in plastic litter on local beaches in a span of 2010 to 2017. However, at the same time, the issue of plastic mismanagement cannot be solved simply by a plastic ban. Many cities attempt implementation of bans on materials with no proper incentive or management structures, thus struggling to achieve meaningful results owing to noncompliance, black market setups, and continued littering in absence of adequate disposal systems. Therefore, plastic policies need to be better-planned and backed by an effective waste management system in order to truly bring about a change.

Partnerships with the informal sector

There is no denying that Informal waste collectors are the very powerhouse of recycling efforts across many countries, and tapping into them well can increase plastic recycling. In such a scenario, informal workers will not only earn higher and better-consistent wages owing to a steady demand for the materials, but the plastic recycling industry will also achieve resilience even during poor global markets. Countries across the globe can leverage the informal sector both to minimize plastic waste as well as to empower vulnerable populations socially.

The global plastic waste problem is undoubtedly multifaceted, but so are its solutions. How do you believe your city is making progress?

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