Exploring the Strategies for Reducing Plastic Waste and Creating a Livable Urban Future in Pakistan

Islamabad: A Twitter Space titled “Reducing Plastic Waste for a Livable Urban Future in Pakistan” was held on World Environment Day 2023. It was jointly organized by Institute of Urbanism (IoU) and School of Leadership (SoLF) with the support of the U.S. Embassy. The virtual event brought together experts, policymakers, and concerned citizens to address the pressing issue of plastic waste and its impact on urban environment in Pakistan. The event aimed to raise awareness, foster dialogue, and identify effective strategies for reducing plastic waste and creating livable urban spaces.

The panel included Ms. Farzana Altaf Shah Director General Pakistan Environment Protection Agency (Pak EPA), Ms. Nazifa Butt Senior Manager Climate & Energy WWF-Pakistan, Ms. Mome Saleem Senior Environmentalist, Dr. Ejaz Ahmad Senior Program Fellow Institute of Urbanism (IoU), Ms. Mariyam Irfan Managing Director School of Leadership Foundation (SoLF), Mehreen Raza Founder and CEO She-Guard and Bilal Ahmad INT TECH GenUnlimited Global Winner. The space was hosted by Asmat Ullah, Anchorperson.

The twitter space commenced with the welcome note by Dr. Ejaz Ahmad who emphasized the urgent need to take collective action to reduce reliance on single-use plastics and explore sustainable alternatives. According to research, every year, 55Billion plastic bags are used and the rate is increasing drastically by 15% annually. We need to come up with certain solutions to address this graving issue.

Farzana Altaf while speaking about ways to combat plastic pollution in Islamabad specifically, she emphasized on the importance of initiating public-private partnerships to bring impactful change. She said “We need more coordination amongst all the stakeholders involved to truly combat the issue of plastic pollution.”

Upon asking Nazifa Butt about the major industries involved in plastic pollution, she mentioned “All the FMCGs, food and beverages industry, textile sector are the plastic producers as well as major contributors to the percentage of plastic waste in our waste generation.” She further shared that we cannot fully eliminate plastic from our lives but it’s good to see that these big companies have launched pilot projects focused on plastic recycling, adding that the government needs to set out a clear path for these companies to get substantial results from these schemes.

Responding to a question regarding youth involvement for plastic free sustainable future Mome Saleem said “Government of Pakistan’s Green Youth Movement (GYM) program sounds like a commendable initiative! She established 137 GYM Clubs in different universities as a widespread commitment to environmental conservation and youth engagement to make cities plastic free. By fostering eco-innovation and testing ideas, this program can contribute to finding sustainable solutions to environmental challenges.”

Mariyam Irfan, highlighted the role that society can play in reshaping waste practices in urban areas, particularly in Islamabad. She stated, “The involvement of young people in youth groups is very important. We need to focus on raising awareness, and what better way than utilizing the youth population to spread the message? It is crucial to educate them and actively involve them as individuals.”

Among the experts, two SoLF’s supported young entrepreneurs were also engaged in the twitter space. They briefed about their ventures and how they are contributing to reduce plastic use in society. Mehreen Raza briefed about her venture for biodegradable sanitary napkins. She is producing Plastic and chemical free herbal degraded female sanitary pads. Bilal Ahmad briefed that how they are replacing conventional plastic with Bio Plastic made of organic polymers that can be degraded within three to six months.

The twitter space concluded with a call to action, urging all stakeholders to join forces to reduce plastic waste in urban areas. Participants were encouraged to support policies promoting sustainable practices, engage in community-driven initiatives, and advocate for systemic changes. By working together, it is believed that Pakistan can create cleaner and healthier plastic free cities for future generations.

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