Waste management is one of India’s major challenges. One major factor that leads to poor management of waste products in India is high population density. It is a common occurrence to see plastic products not collected in waste bins for proper disposal via incinerators, landfills or recycling workshops, rather they are carelessly discarded into regions inaccessible for proper waste disposal and thereby disrupting the whole process of recycling/recovery. In India, around 75% of the waste generated is recyclable but sadly, our country recycles only 30%. Some major recurrent practices include throwing plastic containers, bottles and bags on the ground or even dumping plastic waste items into nearby water bodies, which further pollutes the surrounding and subsequently the entire ecosystem. This careless disposal of plastic products is becoming a serious environmental issue and a threat to the ecosystem. Plastic wastes are hazardous to marine animals and if not checked the sea would have more plastics than aquatic creatures. The need of the hour is adopting techniques to minimize waste production and saving our planet.
There are four basic essential things a man needs to survive on this planet namely, air, water, food and land. Plastic waste threatens the availability of the resources required on a daily basis, and thus we need a proper plastic waste management system. So, if we look at the problem from a socio-economic and environmental standpoint the best solution to manage waste plastics is to recycle it. There are numerous benefits to recycling plastics, including reduced greenhouse gases emissions and energy conservation. It also employs several people in developing countries ranging from white-collar corporate jobs to casual economic activities. In recent years few startup companies in our country have taken innovative initiatives in dealing with plastic wastes. There are various web-based recycling startup companies like Pom Pom that pays people back for proper disposal of non-biodegradable waste products. The founders of the company are Deepak Sethi and Kishor Thakur who started this business in South Delhi to reduce the burden on landfills.
Recycling plastic wastes in recent years have been perceived as a business opportunity actualizing the idea of industrial ecology. Plastic waste products can be found everywhere. It is like a storehouse of wealth waiting to be put to good use. The entrepreneurs are willing to invest in the plastic recycling business because of the availability of technology and raw materials. Plastic recycling requires heating and blending which is not an issue in any industrial town or city. The idea of recycling plastic wastes all over the world is a driving force because it employs several people thereby improving the socio-economic conditions and simultaneously improves our environment.
Plastic wastes are also recycled to produce various kinds of composite materials. The composite materials are made by mixing two or more ingredients to produce a final product of superior quality whose properties separately lack the requirements for a particular task. In the clothing industry, the use of polyester is quite widespread. Polyester has become the single most popular fibre in the clothing industry. About 70% of the total production of man-made fibres worldwide is made up of polyester base fibre. Plastic waste technology can also be used to produce beautiful and intricate innovative art designs. Contemporary artists use plastic wastes to create various artworks expressing the impact of plastic wastes on our planet. PET bottle caps and bottles are used in making various forms of artworks.
Plastic waste products can be recycled and be used as additives in the construction industries. The plastic wastes are melted and mixed with certain chemicals to produce strong additives. Plastic wastes such as discarded plastic chairs, tables, crockery plates, etc., are thoroughly cleaned, dried and crushed into powdered form. The powdered plastic is then compressed into different sieve sizes and then introduced into the building material as additives. The pulverized plastic mixed thoroughly and heated to a temperature above 200 °C. The plastic melts into a liquid form and as a result, it fills the minute pore holes of the mixture, thereby making the material less porous. The addition of pulverized plastic waste materials into the construction building material improves the mechanical strength of the composite material formed. There is also research going on manufacturing plastic cement from plastic waste products. Research shows that by mixing plastic wastes in cement titles shows considerable improvement in the quality and physical strength of the tiles. When mixed with bitumen during road construction it has shown to improve the quality of the roads. The roads absorb less water and are shock resistant to the movements of heavy vehicles or building construction. Recycled plastic waste composite materials have gained popularity in the construction business because it is lightweight, durability and good insulation properties. Structural designs, ornamentation and flooring make use of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) made from waste plastic materials.
Plastic waste in the recent decade has become a menace to all living organisms. We cannot overlook the various benefits of using plastic in diverse fields be it in textile industry or construction business. However, the negatives outweigh the positives. The negative impacts of using plastic on the environment and health are widely made evident by various environmentalists and scientists. If waste is not managed properly it manages to pollute the soil, the air and even the sea. As our country steps up for Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, it is high time to come up with innovative ideas of recycling plastic goods, spreading awareness and involving the corporate partnerships to spearhead the whole idea of converting waste into wealth.