On 19 January 2023, over 120 students and faculty from Vidyaloka College, Jayawardhana College and Sacred Heart Convent in Galle City took part in an educational awareness raising programme focused on the sources, impacts and solutions to plastic pollution. The hybrid event, entitled “Addressing Plastic Waste at the Global, National and Local Levels” sought to engage students in critical thinking about the plastic crisis, drawing on the latest data, policy and market developments concerning the generation and management of plastic materials.
The event was officially opened by Mr. Prasanna Senevirathna, Principal of Vidyaloka College, who warmly welcomed all attendees and spoke about the school’s vision to achieve a zero-plastic future. Following this introduction, the programme featured lectures delivered by several international experts working in the field of environmental science and sustainable development. Mr. Chathura Welivitiya, Chairman of the Human and Environment Progressive Link Organisation (HELP-O) discussed the work of HELP-O in advancing local plastic reduction initiatives in key sectors within Galle City, including schools, the hospitality industry, garment manufacturing and fisheries. Mr. Matthew Hengesbaugh and Dr. Amila Abeynayaka, two researchers working with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), Japan, presented on the history and scope of the plastic challenge, recent policy developments as well as tools and methods for measuring plastic in the greater environment.
A number of high-level government officials were also in attendance, including Mr. Vidura Kariyawasam Secretary of Ministry of Environment, Southern Province and Mrs. Suranji Weragoda, Deputy Director of Education, Southern Province Education Department, who spoke on the urgency of tackling transboundary plastic pollution and the role of students in conserving and protecting the environment.
Co-organised by IGES and HELP-O, the event is part of a larger project funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) to support implementation of the Basel Rotterdam Stockholm Convention in Sri Lanka, aimed at promoting the environmentally sound management of plastic wastes in Galle City. Going forward, additional pilot activities will be organized with a view towards involving students in citizen science-led research on actions and measures to minimise and prevent marine plastic leakage within their local communities.