Throwaway plastic pollution is turning into one of the biggest environmental problems of our times. Kathmandu alone uses up to 4,800,000 plastic bags a day, and 800 tons of this non-biodegradable material is dumped in landfill sites. One plastic bag takes 500 years to completely biodegrade, and they have now contaminated water, soil, air, and accelerated the climate crisis.
The government’s attempts to ban polythene and single-use bags have failed each time due to the lobbying from powerful companies. And now the Covid-19 pandemic has added to the problem with people going back to using more plastic material like masks, PPE, visors and gloves.
Now, an organisation working on environmental sustainability is recycling plastic in an attempt to reduce and clean up the waste while also creating jobs. Creasion was founded in 2005 and is working in Chitwan and Kathmandu to recycle PET bottles through segregation and baling before repurposing them.
“There is a lot of plastic and it is not going anywhere. The environmental elite can avoid using it, but for us the only way out is to recycle,” says Aanand Mishra, founder of Creasion. “We often see waste as something to get rid of, including plastic and tend to burn it. But we need to change this mentality. We see plastic as a raw material with a high monetary value that can also generate employment for youth.”
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Up to seven plastic types can be found in dumping sites, and the lowest grade plastics reduce the lifespan of the landfill. Of these, PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles are the easiest and most recyclable. But Nepal does not have extended producer responsibility to recycle the plastic the factories manufacture. And in its absence, organisations like Creasion are taking up the task.