Plastic: From Waste to Wealth
We are in the middle of a big plastic crisis and a global plastic pandemic. With a global production of 300 million tons of plastic waste per annum, plastic waste management is one of the biggest challenges in front of us . It is estimated that about 14 thousand tonnes of plastic waste is being generated in India everyday .It is approx 9 % of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the country.
Such a whopping amount of plastic waste generation is a great threat to our marine ecosystem. It is of great danger to land, air, and water .It also has a negative impact on human health and can also lead to climate change. This amount of plastic waste is being generated because of rapid industrialization, urbanization, lifestyle choices, increased population size , spread of retail stores and increased plastic packaging.
So it is necessary to develop a robust plastic waste management system.
PLASTIC WASTE MANAGEMENT
While it is not possible to impose a complete ban on plastic , it is necessary to develop different efficient ways to manage this waste.
The ‘3R’ principle of waste management – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle can be put into action for the management of waste generation.
Reduce – To reduce the amount of waste generation.
Reuse – simply to find a new way to use a product
Recycle – To turn waste into something new and resourceful that is wealth.
A substance ( i.e. wealth) which has been discarded after its primary use is called ‘Waste’. But when this waste is converted to something resourceful which can be put to primary use is termed as ‘WASTE TO WEALTH’.
Though many steps have been taken to reduce and reuse the waste .
A ‘waste to wealth’ approach can be a more sustainable and more efficient way to manage plastic waste.
In addition to converting waste to wealth .It also reduces the burden of plastic on the environment, creates opportunities for income, employment generation and impact quality of life, thereby creating a positive socio- economic impact.
SEGREGATION OF WASTE AT SOURCE.
It is a responsibility of a consumer to segregate waste at source. People should be made aware of different kinds of waste so they can identify recyclable waste.
It’s also important that such education should be given to children at school level so they can be aware about waste management.
Setting up a colour coded bin in communities with information about different kinds of waste makes it easier for people to segregate waste and dispose of it.
In Sweden almost 99 percent of waste is Recycled . Recyclable materials are first sorted at home or by business before it goes to the recycling center. Collecting, sorting and selling of plastic waste is a source of livelihood for India’s informal sector (individual waste pickers as well as traders) .
A delhi based app ‘pom pom’ is providing a platform where one can exchange recyclable waste into cash, from where this waste goes to industry for recycling.
Through such startups and use of technology it’s possible to integrate the informal sector in waste recycling, forming a network for waste collection and waste segregation and creating employment opportunities. Thus generating wealth from waste.
PLASTIC : FROM WASTE TO WEALTH – SOME EXAMPLES.
Polythene recycling unit by CEE
Inputs- discarded plastic bags .
The Centre for Environment and Education(CEA) has developed ‘POLYLOOM’, which is a plastic weaving handlooms that can help in reducing and recycling waste by converting them to products like bags, pouches, bottle-holders etc. Workers can come together and self help groups can be formed and through the use of e-commerce platforms it is possible to create a system of waste collection, recycling the plastic waste and reselling of products . Such startups can help the weaver in terms of employment and income.
USE OF PLASTIC IN ROAD CONSTRUCTION
Instead of dumping plastic waste on the side of roads and endangering the lives of stray animals . Why not use this waste to construct a road.?
One such example is vengurla, a small municipality near goa. Once a dumping ground, now is India’s tourist hub. 7 tonnes of waste is Recycled there each day by the community. 3000 households separate waste into different coloured bins from here municipal collectors pick up waste from such bins and transfer it to municipal segregation ground where workers are employed to segregate waste into different categories .
Here biodegradable waste is used to generate biogas .
Biogas power a plastic shredding machine. It crushes up to 180 kg of plastic Every day. This shredded plastic when used with bitumen to lay road increases the quality of road and such road offers great resistance from harsh weather. 1 km of road can use up to 1 tonnes of plastic or 1 million carry bags and save Rs INR 10,000 per stretch. Using this technique vengurla has built 12 km of plastic road and Rs 15 / kg of plastic sold to contractors for road building.
This shows how a community can develop an efficient system of waste recycling and provide opportunities for employment generation and also can improve their socioeconomic life. It is possible to set up such facilities at rural level to solve the problem of waste generation and employment.
The Government of India has made it mandatory to use some amount of plastic in road construction. Construction of road from polythene’ a flagship project by himachal pradesh government, which is aimed to get rid of a huge pile up of plastic waste. Under this scheme the state purchases plastic waste at Rs 3/kg with an additional rupee as handling charges.
State government also gives incentive to local bodies, panchayats, urban bodies and individuals for proper collection of waste. This also has become a source of earning for rag pickers. Such initiatives can also be taken in other states of the country to convert plastic from waste to wealth.
PLASTIC WASTE TO FUEL
Plastic waste can be converted to either gasoline or diesel .
This pilot project has been taken up by scientists of CSIR – indian institute of petroleum, dehradun. This plant can convert 1 tonnes of plastic waste into 800L of diesel every day. This technology in addition to reducing plastic can also reduce our burden on fossil fuels and also helps to develop an indigenous mechanism to convert waste to fuel this generating employment within the country and reduce dependency on imports.
Such technology driven innovation can pave a way for India to become more ‘ Self reliant’ and can help to achieve the goal of ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ or ‘self Reliant India Mission’.
PLASTIC FROM MEDICAL WASTE TO WEALTH.
We have all heard the proverb ‘Avashyakta hi Avishkar ki janni hai’ and this farmer from water deficit district jhabua from Madhya Pradesh has proved it right by developing an innovative drip irrigation system by using waste glucose bottles.
Such innovation and ideas gives us insight on how it is possible to convert waste into wealth. It is the responsibility of every stakeholder (consumer, producer and state) to come together and pave a way for sustainable development. Recycling of plastic waste can really be a way to improve the socio- economic condition of a nation. It is not the responsibility of future generations the onus is on us.
We have to create a new mindset : where waste becomes a resource.