Plastic Pollution and Poor Waste Management In Nepal : How Local Markets May Provide a Solution.
Nepal — Uniterra
I arrived in Nepal almost two months ago, during my time here I have had the opportunity to volunteer as a Marketing and Promotions intern for an organization called Organic World and Fair Future
(OWF).OWF is an eco-social for-profit company that was established in 2008 with the vision to
help local organic entrepreneurs with value-chain development. OWF is considered a crucial link that creates a business relationship between small-scale organic farmers, co-operatives, and consumer markets. OWF adds value to raw products through processing, packaging, marketing, and other processes, creating high-quality products ready for consumer purchasing. The company operates 26 value chains; coffee, tea, spices, grains, legumes, mustard oil, fresh fruits, cheese, honey and many more. OWF works to increase the capacity of cooperatives and entrepreneurs. OWF is able to link producers to buyers in places such as supermarket chains in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and other major cities in Nepal. I have been fortunate enough to learn about important topics such as organic agriculture, permaculture, as well as more severe problems that affect everyone in Nepal such as plastic pollution, and inadequate waste management, which will be the main topic of this blog post.
Shortly after arriving in Nepal one thing quickly started to stand out to me. Often times while walking around the beautiful cities of Nepal I would find myself surrounded by giant, ugly mounds of garbage with plastic being the most recognizable aspect. I quickly realized that Nepal, much like
the rest of the world, has fallen victim to single-use plastic, specifically plastic bags. Due to their lightweight, cheap cost, and mass production, plastic bags quickly grew in popularity, causing them to become a severe problem in terms of pollution in the country, especially in urban areas.
In 2018, Kathmandu was recorded using 4,700,000 to 4,800,000 plastic bags daily. In a city like Kathmandu, such a reliance on plastic is problematic, as Kathmandu does not have an effective waste management system or recycling system, which means that the majority of plastic used is not disposed of properly. Lack of cooperation from society is said to
be one of the main contributors to why plastic pollution is such a severe problem. Due to the easy availability and the free cost plastic bags have been a staple in people’s daily lives in Kathmandu. Due to the lack of cooperation and an ineffective waste management system means that a majority of plastic bags are disposed of improperly and will most likely end up in the rivers and streams that run through Kathmandu and have become so severe that flash flooding has often become a common side-effect.
The Lack of Waste Management
As stated above Kathmandu does not have any formal waste management systems, meaning that when you are walking the beautiful streets of Kathmandu, you are quickly overthrown by piling mounds of garbage. The streets of Kathmandu are covered with plastic and waste, seeing stray dogs rummaging through these piles is often a common sight. Quickly the rivers of Nepal, such as the sacred
Bagmati river is becoming polluted with trash and plastic. Seeing a public trash bin is a rarity in Nepal, this means that people will often just dispose of their trash by throwing it on the ground or burning it in the street. Some municipal governments in Nepal offer private waste collection but that comes at a cost of approximately 200 rupees, which may be a barrier to some residents.
The reason I chose to write about waste management and plastic pollution is that I have been fortunate enough to witness how local supermarkets have been able to create opportunities to combat these severe problems. The people of Nepal have started to realize the importance of encouraging localized markets and how they encourage a person to make environmentally sustainable decisions. My reasoning for mentioning this here is because a lot of local products that are sold at these local markets have traditionally been made from biodegradable materials. They are sturdy and environmentally friendly. Rather than using those suffocating and weak plastic bags, local farmers’ markets allow us to become more environmentally responsible with the decisions that we make. I have had the pleasure of touring several different local supermarkets as a part of my mandate. These once a week events not only provide a refreshing place to interact with people, you are also able to see first-hand the efforts people are making to become plastic-free. Such efforts include bringing a container for eggs, reusing old newspapers as wrapping, and the good old method… bringing your own reusable bag. These local markets are paving the way for a plastic-free Kathmandu. Some markets such as the Boudha Farmers Market insist that no single-use plastic is used by any of the vendors during the market.
The organization I volunteer for also prides itself on being conscious of their plastic use. OWF prides itself on operating in the most environmentally sustainable ways. They boycott the use of plastic bags and will provide customers with reusable bags free of charge, and a majority of their products are packaged using heavy-duty plastic which allows them to be re-used.
Plastic pollution and waste management are severe problems that appear to go hand-in-hand in Nepal. Nepal must come up with proactive ways to completely boycott the use of single-use plastics, and a formal waste management system needs to be introduced to clean up the mess that has already been made.
Azoulay, J. (2018). WASTE MANAGEMENT IN KATHMANDU Littered Journey: New Spotlight News Magazine. Retrieved from: https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2018/07/02/waste-management-kathmandu-littered-journey/
Baral, N. (2018). In pictures: Plastic blights the beauty of Kathmandu: Eco-Business. Retrieved from: https://www.eco-business.com/news/in-pictures-plastic-blights-the-beauty-of-kathmandu/
Organic World and Fair Future (n.d.). About. Retrieved from: http://organicworldfairfuture.com
Pradhan, S (2018). Plastic Pollution: Let’s Pledge to Beat It: The Himalayan Times. Retrieved from: https://thehimalayantimes.com/opinion/plastic-pollution-lets-pledge-to-beat-it/