Experience Sharing Session and Roundtable Discussion on Best Practices in Plastic Waste Management: Sharing Experiences from Nepal and Beyond

Experience Sharing Session and Roundtable Discussion on Best Practices in Plastic Waste Management: Sharing Experiences from Nepal and Beyond

In Nepal, plastic waste accounts for more than 11%-16% of total solid waste[1]. Packaging materials of fast-moving consumer goods such as packaged food and soft drinks, as well as other similar products constitute a major portion of the generated plastic waste. Due to inadequate recycling mechanisms, these plastics are either dumped in landfills or burned openly. Consequently, open waste burning is a primary source of air pollution. A recent study shows that 9% of Kathmandu’s waste is burned, which means that the residents burn one in every 10 plastic bags, toothbrushes, bottles, and plastic buckets, emitting toxic contaminants into the open air.[2]

As the population increases, plastic usage and thereby waste generation is also growing. On average, 7400 tons of municipal waste is burnt every year in Nepal. Open burning is directly linked to air pollution and its harmful effect on the health of common citizens. According to a report by the World Bank (2019), Kathmandu alone generates over 400 tons of plastic waste daily, a number that has likely increased since then. Existing policies and regulations in Nepal struggle to keep pace with the rapid increase in plastic waste.

To uncover the current practices for plastic packaging usage in private sector industry, environmental and social regulations associated with single and multi-layer plastic and packaging use from stakeholders in Nepal and Global South, USAID Clean Air conducted an experience sharing event and round table discussion on “Best practices for waste management for Plastic Circularity in Nepal.”

Mr. Prakash Bharati, representing Himalayan Life Plastic, a company specializing in the recycling of PET plastic bottles located in Pokhara, shared the company's journey and its ongoing activities related to the collection and recycling of plastic bottles. He highlighted a few of the challenges in waste management, companies’ operation, and regulations including the need to incentivize the producers who are using recycled PET to promote the overall recycling industry.

Mr. Lakshan Madurasinghe, Director of PACS at the Coca-Cola Company talked about the initiative taken by Coca-Cola in Sri Lanka for plastic waste management and adhering to Extended Producers Responsibility. They initially started with bin installation and later collaborated with local government and private partners to integrate Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) across various geographies. Key takeaways from their experience in Sri Lanka:

  • Effective plastic waste management solutions will require a prior understanding of the local landscape and challenges.
  • While an MRF could provide a solution, effective implementation will require collaboration with local government and other private partners.
  • Quality of the recycled granules is highly dependent on quality of raw materials and technology used; hence the primary focus should be on the collection network and processing technology.
  • Recycling companies will require support from the government and larger private sector to ensure sustainable demand and price for recycled granules.

Following the experience sharing session, a roundtable discussion was conducted to discuss the challenges associated with plastic waste management in Nepal and how private companies and plastic production companies have been working to manage plastic waste.

Recommendations and Way Forward:

  1. The government might have to implement policy changes to encourage the growth of the waste management sector, which could involve offering tax exemptions and financial incentives such as:
    • Eliminate or reduce tax on the movement of the collected waste “Kawadi Kar
    • Provide tax and other financial incentives to the companies using recycled plastic granules for manufacturing of packaging materials
    • Recognizing recycling industry as a priority sector eligible for subsidized loan
  2. Effective waste management will necessitate close collaboration between local government and the private sector by providing appropriate land and infrastructure for the operation of MRFs and other facilities within each local governing unit.
  3. Various initiatives to enhance consumer awareness and drive behavioral changes are necessary to ensure successful source segregation. Achieving this goal will require collective participation and collaboration from both private sector and local government where the private sector directs its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives towards consumer awareness and local wards and municipalities encourage source segregation in communities.

[1] Solid Waste Management in Nepal Current Status and Policy Recommendations, 2013

[2] Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Solid Waste Emission in Kathmandu Valley, 2020