Ninety tonnes of plastic a day dumped in Ayeyarwady
People collect recyclable materials on the banks of the Yangon River in Yangon. Photo – EPA
About 90 tonnes of plastic waste a day are dumped in the Ayeyarwady River and another 29 tonnes in the Yangon River, said Friedor Jeske, waste management expert at Thant Myanmar.
“Almost 90 tonnes of plastic trash go into the Ayeyarwady, mostly hard plastic materials, packing and single use foam packaging,” he said at a workshop in Nay Pyi Taw on Monday on plastic pollution in the river.
Thirty percent of the plastic waste is produced in Yangon. Villages on the Ayeyarwady dump a lot of plastic in the river, he said.
The government needs a better garbage collection and waste management system in villages and townships to solve this issue, which would cost about US$20 million per month.
There are heaps of plastic waste in the rivers, which eventually end up in the ocean.
If the dumping of plastic in the Ayeyarwady is not reduced, plastic waste will pile up on the riverbed, which will make the river rise, and cause riverbank erosion.
To reduce plastic pollution, people’s lifestyles must change. First, people should be encouraged to avoid using plastics or to reuse plastic items. They should dispose of plastics properly by recycling.
The National Waste Management Strategy and Action Plan was drafted by the governemnt to address the problem.
Department of Environmental Conservation Director General U Hla Maung Thein said, “This action plan also includes a main measure for plastic reduction.”
“The real challenge is the fact that we keep using plastics. In the past when there were no plastics, people used natural packaging. But plastic materials are now being used everywhere, and reducing their use has become a huge challenge,” he said.
The issue is facing not only Myanmar but countries around the world. Research shows that the plastic breaks down into microscopic particles in the water, which end up in fish and people who eat the fish.
“According to the World Bank, a person unknowingly consumes about 5 grams of plastic in fish each week, the consequences of which are still being researched,” Jeske said.
An estimated over 500 billion tonnes of plastics are used every day on the planet, according to researchers. There are around 150 billion tonnes of plastic waste in the oceans, and eight million tonnes are expected to enter each year, he said.