Sri Lanka is currently in the midst of a waste crisis with landfills running out of space and the costs of disposal spiralling rapidly. A recent report by the WWF named Sri Lanka as the fifth largest contributor to marine plastic pollution and the level of recycling in Sri Lanka in particular for plastics falls well below global averages.
The Sri Lankan economy on the other hand, continues to suffer from a significant balance of trade deficit and a weakening rupee in part due to imports for raw materials such as plastics, aluminium, paper/cardboard and electronics. Finding a way to increase the domestic ability to sort and recycle these materials for re-use in a circular way may in fact provide a solution for both the environment and the economy.
A linear economy, which typifies most products and materials here in Sri Lanka, is one whereby products are manufactured, used and then disposed of as waste. A circular economy by contrast, is one that aims to eliminate waste through the continual use of resources by reusing, repairing, refurbishing, remanufacturing and recycling raw materials and products at the end of their usable lives. This therefore closes the loop on the manufacturing process thereby reducing the need for new materials.
The waste problem is not just limited to the Sri Lankan economy as materials such as plastics do not biodegrade and therefore will continue to exist until a solution is found. Plastic breaks down into what is known as microplastics after some time which significantly harms the environment as animals ingest this and toxins from the material itself seep into the water table. Recent studies suggest that we are ingesting the equivalent of one credit card every week. The health impacts of the plastic epidemic are likely to grow significantly.