Imagine having a headache. You take a painkiller, and it goes away for a few hours. But it comes back, and you take another and another.
It is always said that when the problem persists, seek medical attention. At this point, you need a doctor to determine the cause of your headache and treat it before it’s too late.
The planet faces a plastic pollution headache every year; different organizations conduct cleanups in various places to cure this headache, among other activities. Unfortunately, it has persisted like an addiction for decades, and it’s time we sought a different approach—a possible cure.
I have written about the Kenya Plastics Pact (KPP). Allow me to use it as the best practice that effectively fits into this scenario.
A way out! KPP is actively bringing together stakeholders from different stages of the plastic value chain to determine a cure for this menace.
The growing membership is guided by a shared vision to create a circular economy for plastics by setting and committing to ambitious targets that help define a plan. By working collaboratively to meet these targets through an elaborate Roadmap, they could be heading towards a cure by 2030.
Four prescriptions have been approved, including “eliminating the unnecessary and problematic plastic items from the system through innovation and reuse delivery models”.
The Pact has already defined and published a list of problematic and unnecessary plastic items that should be eliminated by 2030.
Having a list is one thing, and it’s another to take the appropriate action and phase them out to reduce packaging consumption and waste and improve the economics of recycling. This list supplements the government’s efforts to ban plastic carrier bags and single-use plastic items in protected areas.
Members and stakeholders must develop plans to phase out these items and use innovative and technical solutions to create sustainable alternatives.
Is this enough? You may ask. I’ll tell you what! Beyond identifying that this is one cause of the headache, I mean the production and consumption of plastic packaging we don’t need; we must go further and rethink design.
This leads us to the second prescription: “ensure all plastic packaging is recyclable and reusable by 2030”. This calls for the implementation of design models that will address the issue of non-recyclability.
At this point, I come bearing good news. Because before the end of Q1 2023, the Pact will publish recycling design guidelines for plastic packaging, which will provide clear recommendations to decision-makers on how to design plastic packaging to be compatible with the current (and future projections of) mechanical recycling infrastructure. Think of this as a manufacturer’s manual.
The third and one of the most effective prescriptions is ensuring that of the 100% recyclable packaging, 40% is recycled by the same year.”
Remember how often your doctor has insisted on finishing your dosage for effective results? This is it. We could make the packaging recyclable, but is it practical if we don’t recycle it? No!
And when we do that, we can guarantee at least “15% average recycled content across all plastic packaging by 2030.” This means expanding the local market for recycled goods and creating massive awareness among consumers on the benefits and their contribution to the planetary cure by just purchasing the plastic packaging they need and, when they do so, considering the recycled ones.
Now, imagine abiding by these prescriptions, and by 2031, boom! Instead of cleaning up, we celebrate and enjoy nature’s giving in return: a healthy environment and a healthy community.
We need more private businesses, producers, plastic packaging manufacturers, retailers, recyclers, civil-society organizations, and informal waste collectors to join the Kenya Plastics Pact.
We also need more support from the government and institutions to achieve these targets. We also need everyone to understand that we can do without some of our plastic addictions, and by knowing how to do this, we will make a difference as one nation.
But trust me, if only 1% of all stakeholders involved are taking part in this journey, we will not enjoy this health as soon as we hope to.