The Department of Municipal Administration and Water Supply has put in place a novel initiative to recycle plastic waste and in the process earn a little money.

Under the project, plastic waste such as cups, sheets, use-and-throw polythene bags among many others generated from 10 municipalities in the Kancheepuram district are collected, stored and then sold in an auction.

Officials told The Hindu that in October last year, they decided to store plastic waste generated in the 10 municipalities of Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu, Tambaram, Pallavaram, Pammal, Anakaputhur, Alandur, Ullagaram-Puzhuthivakkam, Madurantakam and Maraimalai Nagar. The plan was to store them and once a considerable amount was collected auction them to those who could use them for industrial purposes.

Elaborating further, officials said that workers engaged by municipalities segregated as much of plastic as possible at source. Further, at secondary collection centres and also at compost yards, another round of segregation was done.

The plastic waste collected by the respective municipalities was brought to Maraimalai Nagar and stored in a community hall, currently unused.

In March, 25 tonnes of plastic waste were auctioned at Rs.2,500 per tonne. The plastic waste was bought by an environmental group which in turn handed over the waste to a private firm engaged in the manufacture of furnace oil that finds varied applications in the industry.

Representatives of the environmental group and officials said the collection of plastic waste was a huge challenge for sanitary staff.

Segregation and collection was done at all three levels – primary, secondary and tertiary (at source, collection centres and compost yards) and only then collected and brought to the storage centre in Maraimalai Nagar.

Staff at the Maraimalai Nagar Municipality said the community hall, where the plastic waste was being stored, was waiting for renovation.

Officials said source segregation was mandatory under Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2000 under Environmental Protection Act, 1986. However, the urban local bodies were only asked to “sensitise the general public instead of penalising them.”

If source segregation was complete and successful, the collection and handling of plastic waste could be done more efficiently.

While the amount of money earned through the auction was meagre, the gains of preventing plastic waste from getting into compost yards, most of them located near water bodies, were huge, the officials added.

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