Non-recyclable Tetra Paks destroying the Beautiful Beaches of the Worldby Shruthi Venkatesh December 10 2018, 6:25 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 52 secs
In Vietnam, a Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea known for its beaches and rivers, milk consumption has almost doubled up in the past 10 years. The country sells more than 8 billion Tetra Paks every year. Insensitive enough, those who consume the drink leave the packs along the shores until the wave washes up on Long Hai beach overnight. Well, on the whole only few cartons are being recycled and the other milk cartons which lie along the sea shores are said to have a devastating effect on the environment, says a report in The Guardian.
Discarded waste on the beaches (PressReader)
The shores seem to look like a dumping ground every day. “I feel like all I do is collect them,” says Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tham, gesturing towards the quiet length of sand that fronts her beach house in the south of Vietnam. “I fill about three or four bags every morning, but then there will be a big wave, and when I look back over my shoulder the sand is covered again.” It’s not only the milk cartons, but also the waste of coco-cola bottles, empty wraps, plastics and many more. “The milk cartons are the most difficult,” she explains. “I can get rid of everything else. Local waste pickers will buy the plastic and the paper from me, and I call the police for the corpses. Nobody will take the milk cartons from me.” It is believed that a comprehensive country-wide recycling programme is yet to be implemented.
In a recent interview done by The Guardian with the Tetra Pak crew, all the information they were given was about the two facilities in the country: Dong Tien plant in Binh Tanh and Thuan An in Binh Duong. The Guardian team was later invited to Dong Tien, where they were informed that they recycle 18,000 metric tonnes of cartons a year, with 93,000 packs per tonne, which would mean that they are currently recycling about 20% of their output. But during a tour of the Dong Tien plant, kindly laid on by vice director Phan Quyet Tien, the team was told that although at its peak in 2016 the plant was processing 300 - 400 tonnes of Tetra Pak packaging a month, they now only process 100 tonnes in the same time frame. So there is now a complete chaos with the recycle system.
Ngoc Tham burns all the dumped wastes after sending her 14-year-old son, Phuc Thinh, inside and instructing him to close all the windows and doors to prevent the fumes from seeping inside. Next May the company will open Vietnam’s first domestic packaging plant on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. Worth $110m, the factory will be capable of producing 20bn cartons a year – foreshadowing a presumed increase in dairy consumption of yet another 50% which means the problem may still arise.
“Recycling has to be supported by Tetra Pak and the milk industry, because they’re the ones making huge profits,” says Quyet Tien - the vice director of Dong Tien, adding that the Dong Tien recycling plant needs to upgrade its carton processing technology, but can’t afford it. “If Tetra Pak don’t offer to supply it to us, we will have to drop the programme completely and Tetra Pak can find someone new – or they can try recycling it themselves and see how difficult it is” he says.
Moreover, in India, the world’s second longest beach is also in an environmental danger. City volunteers almost collected 40 bags of inorganic waste from a 200 metre stretch of the beach in two hours during a waste assessment and characterisation study (WACS) on Marina Beach in Chennai. The researchers then counted each piece of the segregated waste and found a total of 9170 pieces of inorganic waste, of which 95% was plastic. Single use, low quality plastic which is used in carry bags, multi layered packaging, single use cups and cutlery seems to be extremely hard to collect and segregate. Even if it’s done, they would end up on our beaches and streets because there is no market or processing facility to recycle. In the absence of a viable market to collect and process these materials, the main alternative for their disposal is landfills. Therefore, there is a strong case to be made for banning the production of such materials. At the very least, we must apply the polluter pays principle on the plastic waste and impose EPR rules for their collection and sustainable disposal.