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Thursday May 23rd, 2024

John Keells Group’s Plasticcycle, Influencing Change one Challenge at a Time

Plasticcycle’s ongoing awareness sessions and community initiatives educate and empower to combat plastic waste

Haritha Walgampaya – Executive Plasticcycle Branding and Communications, Pasan Senadheera – Assistant Manager Plasticcycle Operations, and Kumudu Munasinghe – John Keells Group Senior Assistant Vice President & Head of Corporate Communications, Group Lead for DE&I and Head of Operations Plasticcycle speak on the impact the Group’s Social Entrepreneurship Project has made since its launch in 2017 with a vision of being a catalyst in significantly reducing plastic pollution in Sri Lanka, through robust strategies in the areas of encouraging the reduction in single-use plastics, supporting responsible disposal, and promoting recycling initiatives.

Plasticcycle’s Start-Up Accelerator programme supports innovators to ideate and incubate
solutions to replace single-use plastics

What is a key initiative Plasticcycle is currently involved in & how does it engage with the community &  other organizations?

Pasan:  We have always taken a multistakeholder approach, to collaborate with the relevant government bodies, NGOs, private sector organizations, and our communities to ensure that the implemented projects are long-term and sustainable. One such example is partnering with the youth-led volunteer organzation The Pearl Protectors on the ‘Cleaner Seabeds for Sri Lanka’ expedition, which aims to remove discarded fishing nets that pollute the reefs in the Western, Eastern, and Southern provinces of Sri Lanka.

While our funding for the expedition in 2023/24 alone supported clean-ups of 9 reefs, through 41 underwater dives in the Western and Eastern provinces, through which over 1300 kgs of plastic waste were collected for responsible disposal, the expedition also works on educating the fisher community on industry best practices to reduce underwater pollution caused by nylon fishing nets are liaising with the Government on relative policy reforms. As the dives are conducted by qualified volunteer divers, the PADI-certified persons at John Keells have the opportunity to contribute to this worthy cause.

Pasan Senadheera – Assistant Manager Plasticcycle Operations

What are some of the most significant challenges faced in implementing your work, and what have been the key achievements in overcoming them?

Haritha: While we find that the lack of effective bans on certain single-use plastic items and lack of timely data on solid waste collected, challenge the smooth functioning of extended producer responsibility initiatives for manufacturers, driving behavioural change among the public is still one of our biggest challenges. Through targeted awareness sessions and on-ground activations at schools, public and private sector entities, and messaging on our social media page and our tri-lingual website – www.plasticcycle.lk,  we not only disseminate best practices and the importance of following the 4Rs but also engage with our audiences, to gather ideas to reduce plastic pollution. 

One of our key achievements was the launch of “Start-Up-Cycle”, a challenge platform in collaboration with John Keells X, and John Keells Research (JKR), where we provided Sri Lankan innovators and entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their solutions to address the problem statements provided by Sri Lankan businesses, relating to their challenges in reducing plastic usage and waste, to seek innovative implementable long-term solutions. We received over 100 applications from across the country and 3 solutions were shortlisted to receive seed funding and support from our businesses to incubate and develop their ideas towards developing commercially viable prototypes.

Haritha Walgampaya – Executive Plasticcycle Branding and Communications

What are Plasticcycle’s future projects and how can others collaborate on them?

Kumudu: We will continue to champion initiatives that support the circular economy in the waste management space and also continue to ideate and empower innovative solutions to reduce plastic pollution.  Through JKR (the John Keells Group’s R&D and Innovation arm) we are exploring possible bio-tech solutions to combat pollution and together with our Group’s businesses, we endeavour to not only increase effective collection of plastic waste but also develop livelihoods with the establishment of material recovery facilities. Our continued discussions with Government bodies and other industry partners to develop and enhance national policies which support combatting plastic pollution will also continue in the future. There is a myriad of ongoing collaboration opportunities for organizations with a strong environmental sustainability focus to partner with us on our initiatives.  

Kumudu Munasinghe – John Keells Group Senior Assistant Vice President & Head of Corporate Communications, Group Lead for DE&I and Head of Operations, Plasticcycle