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Time for Myanmar to beat plastic pollution

Release Date: June 1, 2018



We see it everywhere, use it everywhere. It is the miracle material that you can use for almost anything but it is now threatening our well-being and our planet more than ever. Plastic.

The global plastic waste pandemic is not something Myanmar is excluded from. Plastic items such as bags, bottles, food packaging and straws are now widely used across the country. 


We can see plastic waste almost everywhere and it affects each and every one of us, but we can all do something about it. It is time for Myanmar – businesses, individuals and the government – to address plastic pollution before this golden land turns into a plastic country. The recent fire at Htein Bin landfill, covering Yangon in a stench of burned plastic for days, was a clear reminder that our relationship with plastic in Myanmar has become toxic – quite literally. 


Plastic has been around for a long time. The material has been instrumental in advancing solutions in health, transport and manufacturing. However, during the 2000s, there has been a significant global increase in the use of single use plastic items – which we use only once, on average for about 12 minutes and which are then thrown away never to be used again. Many of these items are made of plastic that has low value for recycling and ends up in our rivers to later be transported to our oceans, where it not only harms marine wildlife, but enters the global food chain as micro-plastics. If we continue to use and discard plastics the way we do now, estimates suggest that we will have more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. 


An obvious reason for why we use a lot of single use plastic is because it is convenient. It is easy. We do not have to bring our own reusable bags to the market – we can get as many as we want for free. We can buy bottled water almost everywhere and we can discard it wherever. We can order takeout food, which comes delivered in Styrofoam or other plastic packaging and we do not have to cook ourselves. Plastic is easy to use, but getting rid of it is the difficult part. I only found out recently that most of the plastic ever produced is actually still out there.


It has not been recycled or reused. It is at the bottom of our oceans, on islands in the Myeik archipelago and even in the Arctic ocean, where microplastics were recently found in the sea ice. Plastic does not just disappear. Scientists have not agreed on how long it actually takes for plastic to disappear. Some say 450 years, some say never. This means that a bag you picked up this morning to use only once, will “survive” you for generations. 

Imagine what that means for the 80 million bags approximately used per day in Myanmar, and what it means for the bags we will use tomorrow and the days, weeks and years after that.  

Clearly, proper waste management is one of the challenges. In Myanmar, we are paying very little for waste management, at least as private individuals. Where I live, close to Aung San stadium in Yangon, I pay K600 per quarter for my waste to be picked up by Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC). This is obviously not enough to fund proper waste management. The cities and towns across the country are in urgent need of more bin lorries or similar equipment and infrastructure to collect waste, as well as more space for landfills, where waste can be processed and properly managed. There is just not enough money available, which is why so much of the waste ends up on our streets, rivers or areas of cultural or natural significance such as Bagan, the waterfalls in Shan State or Kyaiktiyo in Mon State.

Read more at: https://www.mmtimes.com/news/time-myanmar-beat-plastic-pollution.html




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