Managing waste: Create a circular economy for plastics

ICLEI South Asia and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) organised the Daring Cities webinar on ‘Enabling Circular Economy Through Reduction and Scientific Management of Plastic Waste’ to discuss the opportunities offered by circular economy measures to address the growing plastic waste menace. Watch here.

Mr. Emani Kumar, Executive Director, ICLEI South Asia, set the tone of the session by highlighting the challenges that cities are facing while managing plastic waste. In his special address at the event, Mr. Gino Van Begin, Secretary General, ICLEI, called attention to the catastrophe caused by plastic waste pollution that necessitated a call to action from a wide range of key actors and stakeholders, such as governments, donors, financiers, consumers, corporate brands and plastic producers. “We need to move away from the ‘take, make and waste’ model,” he said.

Mr. Jacob Duer, President and CEO, AEPW, in his keynote address reiterated the importance of involving community leaders in the development of local-specific solutions for successful management of plastic waste. “Community leaders have the best knowledge of their needs,” he said. Mr. Duer emphasised AEPW’s commitment towards investment in infrastructure, capacity building, stakeholder engagement and technical solutions for managing urban plastic waste.

Senior officials from Hyderabad in India and Balikpapan in Indonesia shared their experiences and initiatives towards managing plastic waste in their cities through various regulatory, voluntary, market-based and informational measures. The session was moderated by Mr. Justin Wood, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships, AEPW. Mr. Srinivas Reddy, Executive Engineer, Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, briefly discussed the situation in his city and expressed concern over the poor quality and contamination of plastic waste due to lack of segregation, resulting in low recovery and difficult processing. Mr. Suryanto Ibrahim, Head of the Environment Agency of Balikpapan, Indonesia, spoke about four ecological commitments of his city, one of which includes reducing waste sent to the landfill area by adopting the 3R (Reduce, reuse and recycle) approach.

The panel discussion convened experts from the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), GIZ, and private sector entities such as SUEZ and Henkel Beauty Care to identify concrete actions to address the issue. Mr. Kazunobu Onogawa, IGES, briefly presented on the strategies to address marine plastic pollution caused by land-based sources in low and middle-income countries. He emphasised the strategies to be adopted gradually in a temporal scale, where the short-term goal should focus on immediate solutions to prevent leakage, medium-term goals focus on increasing the plastic waste recovery and recycling, and the long-term goals indicate a change in lifestyle.

Ms. Anne Pedretti, SUEZ Delegate and Cities Programme Co-Chair, AEPW, reiterated the importance of political commitment, data availability and a strong regulatory framework for ensuring successful implementation of plastic waste management strategies. She highlighted the crucial role played by AEPW in supporting cities to develop the required infrastructure and capacity.

Mr. Philippe Blank, Head of Circular Economy, Centre of Excellence Sustainability, Henkel Beauty Care, Germany, spoke of Henkel being one of the first multinational companies to report their environmental footprint. He emphasised that sustainable packaging, smart design and collecting plastic waste from the end of the chain were key measures to close the loop. He presented ‘Ambition Henkel’ i.e. the 100-50-0 target for 2025, where 100 indicates 100% recyclable packaging made from mono-material wherever possible, 50 indicates the commitment to decouple fossil-based resources, including plastic, at source by 50%, and 0 indicates no disposal of plastic waste into the open environment. Henkel is working towards managing plastic waste as part of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, ranging from developing infrastructure to raising consumer awareness on sorting and recycling of plastic waste.

Dr. Christopher Speier, Technical Team Lead and Advisor, International Solid Waste Management, GIZ, spoke on project ‘Aviral,’ which focuses on plastic waste management in the Indian cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh. The project seeks to engage regional stakeholders in taking ownership of the project, thereby ensuring feasibility, acceptability and financial viability.

Finally, a Call to Action for Waste Wise Cities was made by Ms. Francesca Calisesi, UN-Habitat, where she invited cities to become part of the programme and work towards efficient and sustainable waste management. The webinar helped to establish the need for an effective waste management infrastructure to implement the waste hierarchy, upscaling of the cycling of plastics in the economy, and prevention of leakage of plastic waste into the environment. It reinforced the necessity to explore opportunities for recovering the value of plastic as a resource through circular economy tools by engaging public and private sectors.

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