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Increase price to minimize dumping: Dutch expert tells Sri Lanka


A Dutch expert in Waste Collection and Treatment has suggested that the government increase the price of dumping and incineration of waste if people are to pay attention to recycling. 

 The Dutch expert, Ko Poppe, who addressed a workshop on ‘Trends and innovations in recycling: opportunities for Sri Lankan Green entrepreneurs” organized by Lanka Social Ventures this week said opportunities in the recycling business would open up if recycling waste was made more expensive.

Netherlands, which has a land area twice as small as Sri Lanka, has a population of almost 17 million and thus has had no choice but to recycle its waste. By 2013, it had managed to recycle 51 percent of its household waste with over 700 companies being involved in the process.

Forays into the recycling business has also been motivated by the Dutch government making it compulsory for all producers to pay for waste that cannot be recycled, said Poppe.

He stressed that if recyclers pursued efforts to segregate and create high quality recycled material, they could easily fetch a high price for their goods.

Sri Lanka recently issued a ban on the four types of plastics; lunch sheets, shopping bags, polystyrene boxes and polythene used for decorative purposes and according to the Central Environment Authority (CEA), Project Director Bandula Sarath, this was a measure to add value to recyclable items such as plastics.

In November, the government also decreed all household waste needed to be segregated prior to collection.  

“Though we have issued the ban, we have given companies a grace period until January 2018. Thereafter we will take legal action against those who use the banned plastics”, said Sarath.

He added that the CEA was not attacking the plastics industry and that it had only targeted these four plastics, which at present had no value attached to recycling.

Since the ban, supermarkets have started to issue low density polyethylene (LDP) bags instead of the high density polyethylene (HDP) bags, and Sarath sees this as satisfactory though not ideal, “LDP is more expensive so the incentive for recycling is there compared to HDP, so it is a step forward”, he said. 

Whilst the polythene ban has helped to stir some interest in the recycling industry, incentives to invest in recycling businesses are slow to come.

The CEA has stated that the government spent Rs. 15 million on washing plants in Colombo and Gampaha for recyclers and has formed a network of over 140 recyclers around the country but recyclers complain that there was no proper distribution network for their goods and an established collection mechanism.

Paper recyclers at the event complained that most of the paper was imported to India rather than recycled locally. Furthermore there no finance for companies in the recycling field.

Poppe estimated that at least 1 million Euros would be needed to establish a recycling plant and he added that the money would come if demand for such services is dire.

At present however, it is still cheaper to send waste to landfills than recycle it.