Sri Lanka’s fight for waste

Human-caused grievances also affect innocent living beings in particular. In Sri Lanka, large amounts of waste have accumulated in garbage dumps over the years. But because it also cuts into elephant habitats, the mammals inadvertently eat some of the plastic waste, especially single-use plastics. This is because the garbage is freely accessible to many elephants; there are more than 50 open garbage dumps in Sri Lanka. No barriers prevent the animals from seeking food in the dumps.

This consumption has serious consequences for the animals: over five elephants die each year as a result of plastic consumption. This fact could be established by experts based on autopsies of the animals. Elephants are already threatened with extinction in Sri Lanka; about 6,000 wild elephants still live on the island.

In addition, bottles, packaging and bags are blamed for clogging drains and causing flooding in cities, as well as fostering an increase in potentially deadly dengue fever, which is spread by mosquitoes that breed in stagnant water.


Protecting elephants by banning single-use plastic

The government of Sri Lanka tried to respond to these facts by banning the production and sale of single-use plastic since June 2023. Already six years ago, the sale of plastic bags made of non-biodegradable plastic was banned. Now it is extended; the sale of e.g. plastic cutlery, cocktail shakers, plastic tableware is now punishable.

Environmentalists doubt whether the laws will help. Attempts to curb waste have been made before, but even then the decrees were largely ignored as manufacturing companies continued to produce certain plastic items.

The economic crisis that began in late 2021 further exacerbated the garbage problem. Garbage began to pile up as garbage trucks lacked fuel.


Waste problem also dangerous for people

In this South Asian country of 22 million inhabitants, more than 1.5 million tons of plastic waste are produced every year, half of which ends up in canals, rivers and ultimately in the Indian Ocean. In addition, only three percent of plastic waste is recycled. According to a study by the Center for Environmental Justice, 15% of the waste is single-use plastics (e.g., straws, food wrappers, bags). This large amount of plastic waste and the fact that it is not disposed of properly correlates with the increase in dengue fever cases: from 35,000 cases in 2021 to 77,000 cases in 2022.

The laws are now intended to contribute to the waste problem in the country, so that hopefully no more elephants will have to die additionally and fewer people will be affected by the fever.




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