On 8th of October 2022, we collaborated with Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) to jointly organise a multistakeholder seminar titled ‘’Enabling Policy for Sustainable Plastic Waste Management’. This has been first of its kind—a dialogue on knowledge and insight exchange to plan an effective and executable policy that will help manage plastic waste while minimising the impact for manufacturing businesses and consumers.
Mr. Md. Tajul Islam, MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperative (LGRD) as the chief guest graced the seminar. Mr. Md. Shahab Uddin, MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change and Mr. Md. Tofazzal Hossain Miah, Senior Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office were present at the event as special guests. The session was moderated by our Director and Head of Communication and Partnerships, Shamima Akhter.
The programme commenced with a keynote presentation by professor Dr. Ijaz Hossain, Panel Advisor, FBCCI and Former Dean, faculty of Engineering, BUET, highlighted the usage and supply chain of plastics from a contextual perspective. This not only helped the audience to understand the different methods of plastics manufacturing but also created a constructive discussion on how different stakeholders can play their respective roles to tackle the challenges of plastic production, collection, and segregation.
Global models of collecting plastic from cities in India and Singapore were highlighted to illustrate a picture of how to push the change in value creation through government policies and initiatives, such as the practice of National Green Tribunal of India (NGT) to help create the cleanest city in India--Indore. Effective solutions on an infrastructure level were presented, from the critical role played by the waste pickers (bhangariwalas*) to public, private and non-profit organisations driving waste collection agenda. The sustainability roadmap had the SDGs aligned with our corporate values where strategies to transform the global plastic packaging market were shared.
Dr. Ijaz highlighted some of the good initiatives that the government has taken to address waste management in Bangladesh. However, the main challenge, he presented, was the lack of technical and financial capability of the municipalities to collect waste from households and process unsegregated mixed waste. In the short-term, installation of Material Recovery Facility (MRF) and production of Revised Derived Fuel (RDF) from waste at a lower cost was suggested.
Furthermore, he mentioned, ‘’Localising the international models in our country is a much-needed action as most people of our country depend on plastic directly and indirectly; proper research, piloting and model testing should be completed before formulating any policy. Of course, a simultaneous process of consulting with all the relevant stakeholders, including consumers, users and manufacturers is important otherwise, there is a chance that the policy may appear to be impractical and may harm the consumers eventually.”
Our CEO & Managing Director, Zaved Akhtar presented on Plastic Circularity by highlighting our collaborative projects in partnership modality, with UNDP in Narayanganj, YPSA in Chattogram and other innovative initiatives, to address the issue at root cause. The presentation revolved in three major areas- rewiring the system, research and development and redesigned packaging where an emphasis on how to ensure success of the circular economy was given. In his presentation, our leader shared data and real-life scenarios of Unilever Bangladesh driving the plastic waste collection agenda, which is a significant contribution to our compass goals.
He passionately believes and it quotes,’ We must understand that one or two organisations would not be able to solve the problem, it would require the whole business community to come forward and contribute. Only if everyone comes forward and takes ownership- the value addition in the value chain will happen and we will be able to reach the scale required to make a sufficient impact to improve the overall situation.’
In addition, there was an interactive roads how to demonstrate the usage of plastic over the past decade in Unilever by our Research and Development (R&D) team to understand how we are thriving to incorporate less plastic, better plastic and no plastic within our business.
The President of FBCCI, Mr. Md. Jashim Uddin, in his welcome speech, outlined, “It is quite common that plastic usage will increase with per capita income and GDP, so the use of more plastic is a good sign for the economy. Using more plastic is not the problem, rather, plastic waste management is the main challenge’’. Mr. Shamim Ahmed, President of Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BPGMEA) gave a presentation, where he highlighted the importance of plastics in our everyday lives and urged the government to provide incentives and tax rebate facilities on the private sector initiatives in the production of plastic waste materials.
During the panel discussion, Ms. Eun Joo Allison Yi, Senior Environmental Specialist of the World Bank reaffirmed the commitment of the World Bank to the environment and our country by saying, “We stand ready to work with the government of Bangladesh as well as the private sector to help program and finance complementary investments to strengthen plastic waste management, transitioning to a circular economy by promoting new jobs and business innovation in plastics alternatives, invest in city corporations zones, coastal areas to integrate plastics waste education and cleanup, and coordinate policy frameworks to enable and accelerate action for the benefit of environment and people and green growth in Bangladesh.”
Mr. Iqbal Habib, FBCCI Panel Expert and Joint Secretary of Bangladesh Environment Movement, Mr. Md. Moinul Islam, Urban planner, Narayanganj City Corporation (NCC) and Mr. Khadem Mahmud Yousuf, Managing Director and CEO of Bangladesh Petrochemical Company also participated in the conversation.
In the final segment of the seminar, the chief guest, Mr. Md. Tajul Islam MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperative (LGRD) mentioned the importance of exploring innovative and smart solutions for waste management. He said, ‘’Waste collection is currently not considered to be sustainable as it is still not viewed as a business proposition. An effective solution would be to follow the circular system which ensures that the consumption of plastic does not increase and moves towards a sustainable waste management model.
We must also empower the value chain actors and provide holistic support to the informal sector, comprising the micro entrepreneurs, scrap dealers and waste pickers. This informal yet important sector must be facilitated, and a proper structure should be developed for our own sake.” Mr. Md. Shahab Uddin, MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, further added, “Waste Management is a complex process as it has multiple industries and stakeholder involvement. Our focus is to co-create policies that are practical and effective, in consultation with stakeholders, including brand owners, to intervene in the value chain.
We need to identify the mechanisms and institutional arrangements necessary to co-devise a circular plastic economy. Implementation of the action plan also requires the allocation of budget and resources leveraging both public and private finance. We hope that this plan will help the government achieve its vision and become a role model for other countries.”
The final remarks by the Senior Secretary of Prime Minister’s Office, Mr. Tofazzal Hossain Miah was that Bangladesh Government’s vision 2041 has incorporated plastic waste management in its sustainable urbanisation goals. The session concluded on a positive note reassuring that a systems change is required along with behavioural shift through interventions at varied level by increasing the engagement of communities – from mass awareness about waste disposal to segregation of waste at source.