Misposition of plastic waste is a global concern and has been a subject of analysis from a long period. According to the World Economic Forum [1], more than 40 years after the launch of the first universal recycling symbol, only 14% of plastic containers are collected for recycling.  The rate of plastics recycling, in general, is even lower than that of plastic containers, and both are well below the global rates of paper recycling (58%) ,  iron and steel (70-90%). In addition, plastic packaging is almost exclusively for single use.

In response to this problem, the WEF [1] has put work on the “New plastic economy” approach; whose main emphasis is that plastics never become waste. The creation of an effective plastic economy after its use is the cornerstone of this new approach. Plastics re-enter the economy as valuable technical or biological nutrients. Under this approach, not only the maximum material value of the plastics would be captured, but the generation of a market or business based on recycled plastics is promoted. This scheme would provide a direct economic incentive to avoid leaks in the final disposal of plastics to natural systems and, in countries such as Peru, would be a driver of employment generation.

The theory explained by the “New Economy of the plastic”, is based and aligned with the principles of the circular economy; which seeks to offer better economic and environmental results, through the reuse of waste generated by consumption. That is to say, “waste does not exist anymore” the waste does not exist anymore”, these become inputs of the industry that produces them or of other productive chains.

According to the study prepared by the WEF [1], given the many benefits of plastic packaging, the likelihood and convenience of the drastic and widespread reduction in the volume and frequency of the use of plastic containers are low. However, the reduction should be carried out where possible and beneficial, by dematerialization, moving away from the single use as the default value and replacing it with other materials. It is understood as beneficial, the promotion of initiatives where costs do not exceed or generate friction or damage to the dynamics of the market or the real income of consumers.

According to this, 32% of plastic containers escape from the collection systems, which generates important economic costs by reducing the productivity of vital natural systems, such as the ocean and the obstruction of urban infrastructure. Geographically, Asia accounts for more than 80% of the total plastic leakage to the ocean and, given this situation, it has become the region with a high number of crucial leak mitigation efforts aimed at improving the basic collection infrastructure. On the other hand, Europe and the United States host not only an important part of the production of plastic containers, but also house the main offices of the 20 main plastic manufacturing companies and the other 20 largest companies in the production of goods. of high turnover (Fast-moving consumer goods), however, have been working and generating opportunities around the redesign of products and materials; as well as innovation in advanced separation and reprocessing technologies can be found in these regions.

Although there is an existing and increasing problem concerning plastic waste remaining and affecting all ecosystems and biodiversities worldwide, public policy designed to address this problem must, on top all, be efficient not only in terms of implementation costs, but also in the achievement of results.

Peru and its regulations for the prohibition of the use of plastics

Through Law No. 30884 [2], the Government of Peru established the regulatory framework for single-use plastic, other non-reusable plastics and disposable technopor containers for human consumption in the national territory.

Among the main provisions of the law it can be found the prohibition of manufacturing for domestic consumption, import, distribution, delivery, marketing and use of polymer-based sorbets, non-reusable bags, bags not 100% biodegradable, plastic tableware and utensils not degradable and technopor. To disincentive the plastic consumption, the passed law created tax, paid by consumer and increasing progressively through time.

In addition, the law approved by the Congress of Peru promotes the implementation of actions to address constraints and limitations on the education of plastics consumption; and foster research to trigger innovation for consumption and sustainable production.

Despite the fact that the regulatory proposal represents a milestone in Peruvian environmental management, if not complemented by actions that effectively address the structural problem behind the existence of plastics waste in the environment – the national solid waste management. The latter is the pillar to promote the reuse and the generation of value from plastics and recycled waste in general.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [3] per capita daily waste generation in Peru is low compared to other countries (0.58 kg per inhabitant per day). However, the infrastructure available for the elimination of household waste is insufficient, and in Lima almost one third (4) of the eleven available nationally is concentrated. This does not supply the demand for waste disposal of the country and leads to 46.2% of that waste is improperly disposed of in uncontrolled dumps, or even thrown into rivers or the sea, or burned uncontrolled.

Knowing this, is the prohibition of the manufacture and consumption of plastic bags and utensils one of the measures that will contribute integrally to the country’s economic development?

One of the economic and social consequences that must be assessed is how the prohibition of the national production of plastics would affect the national economy. In 2016, the size of the main companies producing plastics -including bags- were micro companies (as shown in the table below). These constituted 65% of the national production. If it is taken into consideration that, on average, each micro enterprise employs around 5 workers; the absolute ban on the production of plastic bags would be leaving these companies and approximately 3475 workers out of the labor market. In a country with high rates of informality, this leads to wonder if this potential labor force will be reallocated in other industries or just operate under normality.

Source: Data base National Revenue Authority  of Peru, 2018.

Conclusion

It is important to acknowledge the big milestone achieved by the Government of Peru by passing a law that sets the basis for achieving a sustainable economy but most important, includes actions oriented to modify the citizen’s consumption –plastic bag tax- and raise their awareness on the importance of reducing and reusing the plastic consumed.

Nonetheless, it is imperative to remind that the actions most needed are those who would allow the country to revert the current solid waste management situation through the increase of infrastructure and the consolidation of a “waste management” culture among the citizens and local authorities. This has also potential to contribute to the country’s economic competitiveness, as it has been stated before, under the circular economy approach waste turns into inputs, reducing enterprises costs and enabling efforts for innovation and consequently increase the country’s added value .

Veronica VILLENA
(14/03/2019)

Reference

[1] WEF (2016) The New Plastics Economy Rethinking the future of plastics January. [On line] Accessed 18 February 2019. Available: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf

[2] Congreso del Peru (2019) Ley No 30884 “ Ley que regula el plástico de un solo uso y los recipientes o envases descartables” [On line] Accessed 20 January 2019. Available: http://spijlibre.minjus.gob.pe/normativa_libre/main.asp

[3] OECD (2016) “Evaluación del desempeño ambiental del Perú: Aspectos destacados y recomendaciones”[On line] Accessed el 25 January 2019. Available: https://www.oecd.org/environment/country-reviews/16-00313%20Evaluacion%20desempeno-Peru-WEB.pdf

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