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Intelligence report: Rethinking Pakistan’s Relationship with Plastics

Oct 20, 2021

The problem of plastic waste pollution is complex, conditional and collective. It is a product, an industry, a habit and an entire consumption cycle with a systemic nature, touching many industries and sectors. UNDP Innovation-AccLab Pakistan started exploring this issue with the learning question: how can we reimagine our relationship with plastics in Pakistan? Our journey of plastic waste management led us to investigate, map and examine the entire system of plastics, and multiple loops of sub-segments within it. This Intelligence Report highlights our approach in understanding the system, and key insights that came forward. Some of our key findings from understanding the system include: End-user should be involved in the policy-making process as well as in the design of alternative materials; Instead of one-off linear solutions, the solutions need to be interconnected and should have longevity. We found out that single point solutions and reactive policies do not work; systemic solutions are needed as ban policies do not solve root issues. We also learned that even though single-use plastic bags can be banned, but the plastic that is used for packaging still remains, as these goods are imported; Without a policy in effect, they cannot convince other stakeholders to follow complementary practices; while PET bottles and other plastics of higher economic value get scavenged, most of the single-use, non-biodegradable plastic finds its way to open garbage sinks, landfill sites or municipal sewers, choking sewage disposal systems. Using these key insights, we have developed a portfolio of experiments—where we are exploring and testing solutions to rethink supply chains, behavior and future policy all together to effectively minimize plastic waste. Our key learning goal of the portfolio is to create a circular system of plastics management in Pakistan by testing the new economic models, industrial and consumer behavior, policy shift and, engaging the private sector and other non-traditional partners. 

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