SRI LANKA: Pilot Material Flow Analysis in Kalutara beach, Sri Lanka


Overview of Activities

The PROMISE Project’s Material Flow Analysis (MFA) team composed of adelphi research GmbH, and STENUM Asia, developed a data collection methodology in June 2021 which was first tested in Paruvar beach, India in November 2021. The team then developed a pilot in Sri Lanka to further test the methodology with a focus on the imagery data collection. The National Cleaner Production Centre of Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka NCPC) team identified a section of the beach in Kalutara, Western Province, Sri Lanka (6°36’43.2’’ N, 79°56’52.4’’E) as a suitable location to pilot both manual sampling and the collection of imagery sampling via drone.              

On the 23rd of January 2022, the PROMISE Team conducted an inspection of Kalutara beach to identify the three potential representative segments for manual sampling. The two main sources of beach litter identified were waste transported by the sea, and waste littered and disposed on site. There were also several burning spots where household and restaurant waste were burned. Next on 24 January, the drone provider company, Map Lanka Geospatial Technology and Solutions along with the Promise team marked off sections of the beach and collected imagery data. Following this, the litter was collected from each segment and classified into different groups based on nature. Then, the stakeholder interviews with SMEs were conducted on the 25th of January.


Key Observations

The litter collected and analysed from the beach showed that over 75% of the waste found in all the segments (high, medium and low polluted segments) was found to be plastic. Other key materials found were glass and ceramics, paper and cardboard, rubber, and textiles. Subsequently, the imagery data collected was analysed using object-Based Image Analysis (OBIA) classification methodology, in which the shape, size, colour and texture of items were used to identify them. This also revealed that over 85% of the waste present on the beach was plastic. The drone methodology developed by Map Lanka identified almost the same number of items (accuracy >90%) as manually collected samples.


Outcomes of Stakeholder Interviews

The stakeholder interviews began in January 2022, but due to political unrest in Sri Lanka, the remaining interviews were conducted in September and October of 2022.

Interactions with small and medium restaurants on the beach revealed that over 50% of the waste generated is not segregated and is handed over once a week to the municipal garbage truck without any fee. Some restaurants also confirmed that some of the waste is taken to burning spots present on the beach and burned at night. Only high-value plastics were segregated by the SMEs and sold at 70 LKR/kg to informal waste collectors and recyclers.

The Administrative Officer for SWM in Kalutara Urban Council stated that of the 21.4 tons of waste generated in the municipality, approximately 18.9 tons are collected. He also stated that only about 55% of the hotel and tourism businesses located on the coast are covered by the collection services since the coastal area is excluded from garbage collection. Furthermore, the collector and recycler from the Eco Spindles recycling facility, revealed that 1.05 tons of segregated plastic waste is collected daily as part of a well-developed waste collection network that delivers high-quality PET bottles. In addition to recycling PET bottles, Eco Spindles maintains partnerships with beach clean-up communities, conducts organizations and events, and provides collection bins at some locations.

Informal waste collectors were also interviewed and revealed that they collect up to 100 kg/day of materials two to three times a week, consisting mainly of hard plastics, metals, and glass, as well as PET bottles. These items come mainly from the hotel and tourism industry, among others, and are sold to waste collection centres. In addition to collecting from tourism businesses and garbage trucks, they also collect about 10 kg of plastic waste from beaches every week and pointed out that during the high season of tourism, i.e. from November to February, the collection capacity is higher because more recyclable waste is generated in the tourism sector.  


Conclusions and Lessons Learnt

The area of Kalutara Beach that was studied, hosts several tourism SME businesses (mainly small restaurants, a few guesthouses, and one large hotel). Therefore, it is safe to conclude that most of the waste discarded on the beach originates from SMEs and tourists visiting the beach, as well as waste that is brought by the ocean as clearly observable by the low and high tide lines. It is interesting to point out that very few PET bottles or other valuable plastics (i.e. HDPE) were present. The reason being, valuable materials are sold by the SME activities to the informal waste collectors and also informal waste collectors pick the valuable material directly from the beach.

The interviews carried out with some stakeholders showed the lack of waste management services present in the area. The dumping on the beach happens mainly because households and small activities do not have alternatives where to dispose of their material. On the contrary, the big hotels have already started with reduction activities and proper management of their waste. Small SMEs do not have both the human and financial capacity to provide such services.

The project team will carry out new sampling activities in the same location in the upcoming months to validate the data collected to better understand the connection between waste sources and sinks.