ISLAMABAD, Jun 6 (APP): Federal Minister for Climate Change, Senator Sherry Rehman has said it was high time for the country to embrace the 7Rs strategy to end worsening plastic pollution through the circular economy model that helps to overcome menace of plastic waste with multiple mutually beneficial opportunities.
She was addressing the high-level policy dialogue on World Environment Day 2023 titled “Reimagining Plastics and Renewable Solutions to Environmental Degradation” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Tuesday.
The federal minister had rolled out the Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination’s roadmap to combat plastic pollution through the 7Rs agenda action based on “resource, research, responsibility, recycle, re-use, redesign and reduce”.
Senator Rehman said the 7Rs strategy demanded everyone for making conscious choices to reduce plastic consumption, reimagining the design and manufacturing of plastic products to minimise their environmental impact, extend the lifespan of products and packaging, reduce reliance on single-use plastics, transform plastic waste into new materials for circularity and reduce the burden on the landfill and oceans.
It also demanded that the masses make it their shared responsibility to manage plastic waste and promote sustainable practices, harnessing the power of scientific inquiry to drive innovative, low-cost, and sustainable solutions addressing plastic pollution, provide necessary support and resources, particularly to developing nations to fight this global challenge, she added.
The minister said plastics had polluted the freshwater reserves, environment and tourism spots of the country and the plastic pollution should matter because it was staying in the environment and not biodegrading. Many countries like Norway, Sweden and Germany that have small populations did well with recycling of plastics but the rest of the world only did recycling of only 9% of the total plastic waste.
“Pakistan is recycling very low in the informal sector as only 3-4% of the plastic waste is reprocessed. South Asian economies don’t throw away things but rather reuse them and that’s the circularity prevailing here in our region,” she added.
The senator underlined that the world was not only recycling but increasing plastic generation to threefold and there was no downsizing in it.
On single-time plastics, she said, with great difficulty and resistance, the government had introduced a ban on single-use plastics manufacturing from August 1st, 2023. The manufacturers had been taken on board as it would disrupt their supply chains, she added.
“The whole of South Asia is characterized by men carrying milk and yoghurt in plastic bags. However, community engagement and public participation are key to achieving the goal of plastic-free Pakistan,” she stressed.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) and Convener SDGs Taskforce, Romina Khurshid Alam said this World Environment Day, plastics were something that needed to be considered on an emergency basis and “we need to rethink our response to it”.
She mentioned that littering was a menace all over the country that needed a behavioural change and self-realisation
towards the fact that by every passing day, people were losing their oxygen.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, Vice Chancellor Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU), Prof. Dr Nasir Mahmood welcomed the participants and underscored the importance of climate action amid rising hazards of plastic pollution and ensured his varsity’s full support in highlighting the issue.
Chairperson, SDPI’s Board of Governors, Ambassador (R) Shafqaat Kakakhel said Pakistan was part of the international community that bounds to take actions for containing plastics, and ensure nature conservation and protection.
He underscored that there was enthusiasm among people to carry cotton bags and shopkeepers were committed to following the ban on plastic bags in 2019 but that passion was short-lived and everyone returned to the bad habits.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Executive Director, Inger Anderson in her video message on the occasion said the UNEP was calling everyone to beat plastic pollution because plastics are choking out the natural environment and its recycling was not the solution. “We need to refuse, and reimagine plastics to kick out plastics from our lives and economy. The manufacturer can introduce a new cycle and financial systems can put their capital to achieve the goal,” she added. Anderson urged all to join UNEP to join in the fight against plastic pollution.
Executive Director, SDPI, Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said the World Environment Day and its theme goal of beating the plastic pollution indicated the importance and realisation that plastics were another driver of climate change. The SDPI was trying to promote the policy of reduce, reuse and reorient approach for its transition from plastics to eco-friendly solutions which was expensive, he added.
“SDPI has stopped using plastics at least single-use plastics. We have to start in our personal lives, and offices to stop using one-time use plastics. It’s not going to be a single-day partnership rather we would have to work on shifting from plastics,” he said.
Director General Environmental Protection Agency (DG Pak-EPA) Farzana Altaf Shah said the country’s population and growing poverty had led to exacerbating pollution. “We need to change our attitude towards plastics. The ban on plastic bags intended to bring a behavioural change in our society to curb plastics causing degradation of our environment but we facing resistance to it,” she added.
Shah noted that single-time plastics were one of the major causes of cancer in the population because they had carcinogenic nature.
The high-level dialogue was followed by two separate plenaries participated by members of civil society, academia, public and private sector representatives who discussed plastic pollution in detail and suggested solutions to it.
Dr Sophia Khalid from AIOU delivered the vote of thanks and extended gratitude to all the partners and participants for making the event a success.