Plastic waste: a goldmine when responsibly disposed and managed

Most developing countries across the globe face the issue of proper waste management, and Sri Lanka is
no exception. Each person in Sri Lankan generates around 0.64 kgs of waste daily leading to 4.8 million
metric tons of solid waste collected annually, where irresponsible disposal of plastic waste has become
part of the problem.
Currently, Sri Lanka is witnessing a 16% annual increase in plastic consumption, where 265,000 metric
tons are consumed. To address this, high priority should be given to reduce, reuse, and sustainably
recycle plastic waste. Therefore, it is critical to identify collectors and organizations that align themselves
with national policies to transform Sri Lanka into a green socio-economy.
Based in the Ratnapura district, ‘Go Recycling Hub’ (GoR) is an initiative by Ceylon Emerald Way Private
Limited, to conserve the environment. They educate people on household waste segregation and
locations to dispose plastic waste, conduct Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, buy-back
plastic, and collect numerous plastics from homes, schools, hospitals, public and private institutions, and
public places that are sent for recycling.
“As facilitators, we try to give plastic waste new life. This is why we established GoR and a Material
Recovery Facility (MRF) in 2020. We collect PET (such as water, carbonated and soft drink bottles etc.)
and other types of plastics like PP (margarine containers and yogurt cups), HDPE and LDPE (both
include a mix of shampoos/conditioners, detergent bottles and grocery bags etc.). We then ensure these
items are recycled using infrastructure we have set up with Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd. and Eco
Spindles Pvt. Ltd. Our goal is to add value to waste, while also creating jobs for people in the Ratnapura
district around waste collection,” stated Mangala Bandara, director of ‘Go Recycling Hub.’
Team GoR began this operation after noticing the growing plastic waste issue in the Ratnapura district.
To reverse the damage waste plastic has on the environment, ‘GoR’ established four channels: the Bin
Network, Bag Network, Other Supplier Network, and Country-side Operations to collect plastic waste
that is thrown into open dumps or waterways, or burned. “We currently operate in seven cities in
Ratnapura, and the target is to reach another seven by the end of 2021,” explained Mangala.
Through the Bin Network, they have currently established 15 plastic collection bins across the
Ratnapura district, supported by Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd. After the success of their ‘Bin
Network,’ the ‘Bag Network’ was established. Here, ‘GoR’ provides bags that can store approximately
120 PET (5 kilos) bottles to small and large scale shops. They then buy this collected plastic between Rs.
20-25 per kilo as means of incentivizing shop owners.

As part of their ‘Other Supplier Network,’ ‘GoR’ collects from both the local Pradeshiya Sabha and the
Municipal Council. “We also collect from small collectors by paying them Rs. 35 per kilo of PET plastic
brought. By paying our collectors well, our collector network has expanded, and so has the collection
load. In February, we received around 1000 kilos, and in June, we collected 3000-4000 kilos of waste
plastic! Incentivizing collectors is critical because it builds their livelihoods and keeps them motivated to
bring more plastic waste to our facility,” echoed Mangala.
The Country-side Operation channel is a new initiative ‘GoR’ plans to implement with the aid of Coca-
Cola, Eco Spindles, the local Ministry of Health (MOH), Public Health Inspector (PHI), Grama Niladhari
Office and, the Central Environment Authority (CEA) Provincial Office in Ratnapura. By working
collectively, they want to raise awareness around responsible recycling in households and schools. Here,
they plan to set up bins in schools and run competitions to incentivize children to bring plastic waste
from home.
“Part of this new channel is to help create more jobs, as many people in rural areas in the district do not
have a fixed income for living due to several reasons, which is further amplified because of COVID. We
want to identify low-income families and assist them to become collectors,” emphasized Mangala.
To expand their services, Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd. has provided a modified 20-foot container
to operate as an office as the central collection point; a bailing machine; and a crusher that can crush all
types of plastic into flakes. This has allowed ‘GoR’ to expand their operations to establish a
comprehensive MRF that can add significant value to the plastic waste, prior to it being recycled into raw
materials for products. As of July 2021, they will utilize their crushing machine to turn PET bottles into
flakes, which will be sold to Eco Spindles, Sri Lanka’s largest plastic recycler who will convert these
flakes into polyester yarn or monofilaments. Eco Spindles is also one of two plants globally with the
capability to create yarn directly from plastic flakes.
Though operations and plans to curb plastic waste are in motion, team GoR has witnessed issues in the
waste collection process. “Routine collectors do not collect plastic waste thrown on the roads or
waterways, except for the waste that is directly given to them. When collectors do not collect
household plastic waste on time, people resort to burning it,” stated Mangala. Therefore, in addition to
collecting waste daily, ‘GoR’ conducts CSR collection initiatives once in two months to collect plastic in
rivers and public places.
Re-educating people has become a priority. “People throw away plastic because they don’t see the value
in it and the impact to the environment when it’s irresponsibly disposed. We add value to it and pay for the waste plastic collected. Currently, only 10% of solid waste in Sri Lanka is recycled. We must aim to
significantly improve this percentage and we need your help! Disposing of plastic waste properly should
not be someone else’s responsibility if you generate it. As citizens, we have to hold ourselves
accountable. Please be more responsible consumers of plastic, so it makes our job as facilitators easier,”
reiterated Mangala.

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