Monday, May 20, 2002

Piles of empty bottles littering cities, tourist destinations

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANMDU, May 19[2002]: Drinking mineral water has in recent days become a necessity, at least in the cities where the demand of water leaps higher than the government can supply. We drink the water and just throw the empty bottles. But have we ever thought where do the bottles go after we empty them? Bottled water is easily available but the places to dump them are not.

Such bottles have been a nuisance in most of the remote tourist destinations, where the tourists leave countless bottles every year bhind them. But they are not only the problems of Annapurna Base Camp and Royal Chitwan National Park alone anymore. Kathmandu Metropolitan City is also facing quite a difficult time due to the hundreds of plastic bottles every day.

The plastic bottles are made in Nepal but they come in small compact shapes and here the local industries only blow them to the shape. There are over a dozen producers of bottled mineral water in the country and several brands of beverage and oil come from across different countries as well, but none of them go for recycling in Nepal.

Rajesh Manandhar, the chief of Solid Waste Section of KMC says, "Though the empty bottles bear nominal weight and density, they occupy around hundred times more space than general type of waste so they disturb the whole solid waste management system".

He reveals the secret of the persistence of the problem of plastic bottles: The rag-pickers do not touch the bottles because they pay them nothing.

"The rag pickers do not collect plastic so they are growing in number in the cities as well as in remote villages," Manandhar says.

Environmentalist and executive director of Clean Energy Nepal, Bhushan Tuladhar says the plastic bottles of mineral water and other beverages are made of a subsistence called PET that needs special plants to recycle them.

"Recycling of PET bottles is easy but it needs special plants which is difficult to set in the country immidiately. The rag-dealers also cannot export it to overseas as it takes much space than other recyclable objects. And the District Development Committees (DDC) slap tax from such collected recyclable items that also discourages them," he said.

He suggests that rather than slapping "rag-tax", tax must be imposed to the producers of PET bottles for their share in environment pollution and the rag dealers should be subsidised to export or installation of a recycling plant.

"If the consumers can pay Rs 18 to Rs 20 for a small bottle of water, I don’t think they will refuse to pay 50 paisa for the sake of environment," Tuladhar added.

But Surya Bhakta Khanal, the Local Development Officer at Kathmandu DDC says that the local body needs "rag-tax" for its resources from the garbage collected for recycle and it does not have right to demand tax from the producers. DDCs of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur collected Rs 36.5 million rupees from such garbage last year.

He says, "It might be a good solution to the littered plastic bottles that could also have changed into money if reasonable policy is set. This idea must gather public opinion and also provoke the government to change the existing taxation system on recyclable garbage."

Narendra Pokharel, an officer at Environment Pollution Branch of Ministry for Population and Environment (MOPE) said that there is no specific regulation concerning manufacturers of plastic bottles or penalty to the manufacturers of mineral water for littering the city. "Emphasis should be put on implementing the existing laws, to raise awareness to minimise use of such bottles and to encourage reuse of such bottle."

Pokharel said that the best way to bring the unmanaged empty plastic bottles under control is to commission some parties to install a recycle plant in the country for the only right solution is recycling.
[Kathmandu, Monday May 20, 2002 Jestha 06, 2059.]