OSC Recycling & Sustainability Service Group

A reflective blog exploring recycling & sustainability initiatives at the Overseas School of Colombo

Plastic Bags Woes in Sri Lanka: The OSC Experience

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Waiting to be recylced..this is aclually high-grade plastic that earns more money than bottles etc.

The situation with plastic bags-their production, consumption and disposal- in Sri Lanka is a “discarded” and serious issue. From the elderly to teenagers, from the wealthy to the lower class, plastic bags are mindlessly being thrown away.  Not only is this a problem in Sri Lanka but many other nations have the same problem with over-consumption and disposal.  According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. OSC is trying to address this epidemic of throwing away plastic bags.

The grade 11 geography class headed out to two recycling centers that the OSC Recycling and Sustainability gives its recyclables to. Although both recycling centers took in metals, plastic bottles, glass and an assortment of things, they both did not take plastic bags. Dismayed by this manner my partner and I asked the leader of the Recycling CAS in OSC what they do with plastic bags they collect. Again, we were disappointed with the response of, “We just throw them out” said Alex. It’s alarming to hear that plastic bags are not being recycled or at least reused. The data got worse when we did a survey of how OSC students treated plastic bags.

When asked on an average of how many times OSC students use plastic or cloth bags when shopping at a supermarket 18% of OSC students confessed that they use plastic bags over the cloth bags. “Occasionally my family uses the cloth bag but sometimes we forget.” was one common response used by our surveyors. When asked why they use plastic bags over cloth bags the most common response was, “Because it’s there, easy, and cheap. We don’t have to worry about it because it can be thrown away”.

Although plastic bags provide a cheap and easy way of carrying things, they are causing an impact on the wildlife and environment. It’s estimated by the TOPP organization that over 100,000 turtles and marine animals die each year due to mistaking a plastic bag as food.  Not only are plastic bags affecting the aquatic life but also the terrain life. Plastic bags are a large part of the land fill it is not so much of having plastic in the ground (although it’s estimated that a plastic bag will take about 400-1000 years to biodegrade into the ground –sadly no one will know!) but the production of them.  Producing plastic bags emit tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Sri Lanka has given a push towards reducing the amount of plastic bags used. The government has banned “thin” plastic bags (20 microns) and also tried passing a law of charging customers for using them. Many methods are being used to treat this growing problem, biodegradable bags are being produce, many retail stores such as Keels are providing cloth bags with a small fee. Although these approaches are proposing to be a better outlook, they are not enough. Only when everyone begins to do their part will we see a world without plastic bags.

Article Copyright Charity Dowers, all rights reserved 2011

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Written by recycling1011

2011-05-19 at 10:01 AM

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