India’s Kerala could provide a solution for Asean’s plastic problem
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India’s Kerala could provide a solution for Asean’s plastic problem

ENVIRONMENTAL groups are urging Asean, which just turned 50 this year, to stop plastic pollution, pointing to the Indian state of Kerala as a model to emulate.

Kerala is touted for its successful use of Zero Waste, a waste management concept that pushes reuse of products so no trash is sent to landfills and should be an example to its Asean neighbours should emulate this, according to Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

“In this state, there is a good implementation of Zero Waste, organic waste management is decentralised to the household level, and the Kerala government has good programmes to encourage people to manage their waste,” Sherma Benosa, a spokesman for GAIA in Asia Pacific, wrote Asian Correspondent.

Zero Waste works by first segregating waste in households and communities. This then allows recyclables to be separated from organic waste, which makes up 50 percent of the type of waste generated in Asia. Organic waste could then be used in composting, biodigestion and other methods of organics management.

Kerala’s Green Protocol, a policy which discourages the use of disposables, initially met with resistance from both the public and businesses, but it has slowly grown into a reality in the South Indian state.

People now understand it is the way forward and people are really embracing it. The public is aware. Business groups are coming forward and people are voluntarily implementing it. It is slowly becoming a cultural movement,” says Dr. Vasuki, Director of the Kerala Suchitwa Mission, a government body involved in the state’s sanitation and waste management projects.

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GAIA’s website states in Attingal, a municipality in Kerala, there is a large compost facility, a high-capacity biodigester unit for organic waste and a shredder for plastic waste as part of their centralised organic waste management.

Southeast Asian countries are not usually known for its progressive ways of managing plastic waste. Indeed, a joint report by McKinsey & Co.’s environmental business unit and the non-profit Ocean Conservancy, found roughly 60 percent of all the plastic in global waters originates from just five countries.

China is one of them, but it is Asean countries – the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam – that make up the rest.

These countries do not have recycling systems, but GAIA’s Asia Pacific regional coordinator Froilan Grate says Zero Waste can be the solution to this, as found by the communities in Indonesia, the Philippines, China, South Korea, and India.

“But for it to work at the scale needed to solve the problem, we need our governments to promote and institutionalise it,” Grate said in a statement.

US states, like New York and Los Angeles, have embarked on similar policies last year, according to Reuters. Participants in the “Zero Waste Challenge” started by New York mayor Bill de Blasio claim they have cut 60 percent of their waste and diverted almost 13,000 tonnes of trash from landfills.