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Plastic waste in Kathmandu?

written by Kerstin Sarow

Piles of uncollected waste were making the headlines in Kathmandu in 2016, and despite several promises and policies, it still remains a problem. Landfills are overwhelmed, 27.4% of waste was dumped in rivers or public spaces, only 4.1% of which was recycled in Nepal between 2016-2019.

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Alternatives such as bio-gas plants or the production of organic fertilizer are in their infancy, although on the rise (1). However, 16 percent of Nepal’s waste is plastic. Up to 4,800,000 plastic bags per day were used in Kathmandu in 2018 alone (2). most of which were only used once.

In the Bagmati river of Kathmandu Valley, rubbish has been piling up high, most of which are mainly plastic bags. Considering the biodegrading time of up to 500 years per bag, we do not only destroy our environment, but we will be leaving future generations a difficult eco-task to deal with. 

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Reflecting the global impact of single-use plastic bags, the United Nations’ World Environment Day 2018 was headlined “If you can’t reuse it, refuse it” (3), which remains up-to-date. For example, the government of the United Kingdom introduced a fee of £ 0,05 per plastic bag in 2015 and reduced the supply of these bags in supermarkets by 84% (4). Germany announced a reduction of up to 60% in 2015 and further strengthened the law by abandoning plastic materials thicker than 15 micrometers in 2022.

Since the disposal of plastics, in general, is of global concern, a collaboration between the private and public sectors is urgently required. Community-based waste segregation is essential before adequate technology can be employed to recycle or destroy plastic effectively. Additionally, abandoning or drastic reducing of manufacturing of plastics, as well as eco-conscientious consumption, will contribute essentially. Raising awareness, campaigning, and educating the public are urgently needed to change mass behavior.

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So, what happens to the dumped plastics? And, which alternatives are there? Some important points will be highlighted in the next blog.

Reference:

Government of Nepal, National Planning Commission, Central Bureau of Statistics, 2021. Waste management baseline survey of Nepal 2020. Available from https:// unstats.un.org [Accessed 28. March 2022].

Molden, D., Julliand, V., Johannessen, L., 2018. A plastic world. Available from https:// icimod.org [Accessed 28. March 2022].

UNEP, 2018. The state of plastics: World Environment Day outlook 2018. Available from https://unep.org [Accessed 28. March 2022].

UK Parliament, House of Commons Library, 2020. Plastic bags- the single use carrier bag charge. Available from: commonslibrary.parliament.uk [Accessed 28. March 2022].

Die Bundesregierung, 2021. Duenne Plastiktueten verboten. Available from https://bundesregierung.de [Accessed 28. March 2022].

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