Plastic Recycling: The only answer to plastic pollution

Name the innovative product conceived in the last century to beat the unlimited exploitation of ivory for making billiard balls?

Now name the single most abused innovation of the last century that is threatening to choke the planet we live on?

The answer to both is plastic.

From godsend, plastic has turned into plague of the planet, simply because we figured out ways for its use but neglected to account for where it would end up.  India contributes around 16.5 million tonnes of the global 300 million tonnes of annual plastic waste, according to a 2018 report in Down to Earth. Nearly 40 per cent of this, despite government regulations, ends up in landfills or drains.

But while the rest of us merely lament the sad state of affairs from the comfort of our homes, there's a small but growing band of entrepreneurs who are upcycling plastic waste to innovative and productive use. Their groundbreaking solutions sound simple, but their roads are paved with challenges. Yet, these plastic warriors are changing the economy and improving the state of the planet, a small step at a time.

Roads Paved with Plastic

Plastic is proving to be the real gold that's paving the roads of Bengaluru. Since 2002, KK Plastic Waste Management has asphalted over 2000 km of roads in Bengaluru using 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste retrieved from the city's garbage, adding two years to the life of these roads.

The only company with an exclusive patented technology of reusing plastic waste as an additive in construction of roads, KK Plastic currently operates a plastic reuse/recycling plant in Bengaluru which can process up to 30 metric tonnes of plastics per day. Extensive research has gone into the technology, for which the company works close with government research agencies. The next time you run smooth on Bengaluru roads, remember the recycled plastic waste that's powering your wheels!

Furniture, Bags, Toys from Born-again Plastic

The Delhi based duo of Dinesh Parikh and Sachin Sharma recognised the gap between the overflowing landfills and the paucity of material at recycling units and launched an initiative in 2013 that converts discarded plastic products into innovative items.  Not only has this simple initiative saved 1.4 lakh carbon dioxide emissions, the company has also helped rag pickers earn more significantly. It wasn't an easy task. To be able to collect plastic items, get them converted into fibre that can be used to make sustainable products, GEM Enviro Management had to convince corporates to part with their discarded plastic and then raise an army of workers who would collect plastic waste. The next time you pick up one of the products sold under GEM's 'Being Responsible' campaign, you would have contributed a mite to saving the planet's lungs!

GEM continues to innovate. It also launched a 'Reverse Vending Machine' project, which now has 50 collection centres across 15 states, to collect used bottles. The company has so far processed one lakh tonnes of plastic waste by transforming plastic waste.

Plastic Recycling: The only answer to plastic pollution

Plastic has an Afterlife too

With an eye on changing people's mindset about treating used plastic as an asset and not waste, Bisleri launched a 'Bottles for Change' programme last year in Mumbai and its surrounding regions. Within a year, it has conducted over 200 recycling awareness and collection drives, and workshops in offices, housing societies and colleges, engaging 15,00,000 citizens and is now eyeing other metros in India next. Over 4800 tonnes of plastic has already been recycled by Bisleri under this programme and products like fabric, window blinds and handbags have been manufactured from the recycled fibre by tying up with waste picking organisations in the city.  So watch where you dispose of platic items you just used.

Plastic helps Tribals get a better Life

Techies Amita Deshpande and Nandan Bhat quit their plush jobs five years ago to launch Aarohana Ecosocial, which employs rural women to craft woven products like file covers, home decor products, totes and yoga mats from recycled plastic. About 50 small plastic carry bags go into one Aarohana beach bag, and the founders estimate they have salvaged over 776,500 bags since August 2015.The duo now plans to reach out to other tribal villages in Maharashtra where they can boost employment by offering to teach them weaving skills that help in making their up-scaled products.

Then there's also the vast unorganised sector comprising ragpickers, local kabadiwalas, intermediaries, recycling factories and businessmen who informally collect plastic waste and send it to the right agencies for recycling.

Plastic Recycling: The only answer to plastic pollution

Reports say recycling has the potential to create six times more jobs and generate around Rs 14-lakh crore of additional cost savings by 2030, which is approximately 11 per cent of India's annual GDP.Of the 62 million tons of solid waste generated by our country every year, plastic is the most recycled material at the rate of 60 per cent, most of it done by the informal sector.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a food grade plastic, used the world over for food and pharma packaging has the highest rate of recycling, with 95 per cent of PET products being recycled.

Reports say the Indian recycle industry employees close to four million people, and is a source directly or indirectly. Since plastic, especially PET bottles attract high recycling price, it is one of the best ways of income generation for several, including rag pickers to recycling units.Some figures estimate the global plastic recycling market at USD 25600 million in 2018, a number that is expected to hit USD 41200 million by the end of 2025.

Plastic isn’tthe problem. It’s the management of plastic waste – an issue that is being seriously addressed the world over now, that needs more serious consideration! A hundred years ago, no one could have envisaged the way plastic would revolutionise our lives. A hundred years hence, the planet is likely to thank us for the battles waged by these fiercely committed band of plastic warriors!

Do you pledge to segregate plastic and send it for recycling?


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Printable version | Dec 6, 2020 12:27:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/brandhub/plastic-recycling-the-only-answer-to-plastic-pollution/article30783220.ece

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