On 12 th April 2023, Plasticcycle, the social entrepreneurship project of the John Keells Group, entered into an agreement with The Pearl Protectors, a youth-led marine conservation organization that works to protect marine life and the ocean ecosystem in Sri Lanka, to partner on a project to remove underwater marine litter from sensitive marine ecosystems and reefs located around Sri Lanka. This partnership for the expedition titled “Cleaner Seabeds for Sri Lanka” serves as another step in the journey of Plasticcycle which was launched with the vision to be a catalyst in significantly reducing plastic pollution in Sri Lanka.
According to a survey conducted by National Aquatic Research Agency (NARA), 80% of the seabed in the Western Province of Sri Lanka has been deemed polluted. The cause of this pollution is the result of household and industrial waste being directed into the ocean with over 25% of Sri Lanka’s population living in close proximity to the coast of the island. From this waste, only 15% floats on the surface of the water, whereas the remainder sinks to the ocean floor. Globally, it is estimated that there are close to one million tons of “ghost gear,” such as lost or abandoned fishing gear such as nylon nets, which contributes to the plastic waste in the ocean, causing injury and death to over 550 marine species across the world. It was in light of these alarming statistics, that The Pearl Protectors launched the Cleaner Seabeds for Sri Lanka Expedition.
Muditha Katuwawala, Coordinator of The Pearl Protectors said “The support extended through Plasticcycle comes at a crucial stage where the ocean and the marine environment are choking on plastic pollution and marine litter. With this partnership, we hope to restore much of the sensitive marine ecosystems around Sri Lanka.”
In the upcoming year, the contribution by John Keells Group’s Plasticcycle project will support underwater clean-ups in the Western, Eastern and Southern provinces of the Sri Lankan coastal belt, where plastic waste has accumulated due to poor waste management practices and ocean currents. This expedition gives the opportunity for volunteer divers from across the globe to participate and help remove plastic waste from the seabed thereby preventing plastic waste from breaking down into microplastics and harming marine life such as sea turtles, plankton and various species of fish.
“We are excited to partner with The Pearl Protectors to tackle plastic pollution in Sri Lanka’s oceans. Through this project, we hope to move our focus beyond land initiatives and work towards cleaner oceans as well. We are confident that we can make a substantial and lasting impact in the ongoing fight against plastic pollution”, said Nisreen Rehmanjee – Head of Corporate Finance, Group Tax & Social Entrepreneurship – John Keells Group.
John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH), is the largest conglomerate listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, operating with over 70 companies in 7 diverse industry sectors. With a history of over 150 years, John Keells Group provides employment to over 14,000 persons and has been ranked as Sri Lanka’s ‘Most Respected Entity’ for the last 17 Years by LMD magazine. John Keells Holdings PLC was ranked first for the third consecutive year in the ‘Transparency in Corporate Reporting Assessment’ by Transparency International Sri Lanka.
Whilst being a full member of the World Economic Forum and a participant of the UN Global Compact, JKH drives its CSR vision of “Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow” through John Keells Foundation and through the social entrepreneurship initiative, ‘Plasticcycle’, which is a catalyst in significantly reducing plastic pollution in Sri Lanka.
Image caption: From left to right – Haritha Walgampaya (Branding and communications Executive – Plasticcycle), Pasan Senadheera (Assistant Manager Operations – Plasticcycle) , Nisreen Rehmanjee (Head of Corporate Finance, Group Tax & Social Entrepreneurship – John Keells Group) and Suresh Rajendra (President Leisure Sector – John Keells Group), Muditha Katuwawala (Coordinator – The Pearl Protectors), Maleesha Gunawardana, Emily Berlage, Rose Fernando, Amila Sumanapala.