Absolute ignorance among the general public about plastic disposal a big challenge: Anjana Ghosh, Bisleri – The Financial Express

‘According to the Central Pollution Control Board report 2019-2020, India recycles around 60% of the plastic waste generated. ‘

World Environment Day 2021: According to a 2019-2020 report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which collates data from 60 major cities in India, the country generates around 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste a day out of which 60% of plastic produced is recycled. And rest 40% when not cleaned and segregated, plastic converts to be a waste which is either landfilled or ends up polluting streams or groundwater resources. Bisleri has been actively working towards the cause of a cleaner and greener environment by spreading awareness about the importance of plastic recycling through the Bottles for Change initiative. Launched in 2017, the initiative tries and educates citizens and brings awareness about the different ways of disposing of plastic. This programme also creates a channel and opportunity for plastic agents to collect used but clean plastic (hard as well as soft) through various stakeholders. The plastic collected is crushed into fine flakes which are then used to create non-edible products such as – cloth fabric, hand bags, window blinds and other useful products.

Through the Bottles for Change initiative, Bisleri claims that it has been able to recycle 6500 tonnes of plastic in the past three years. Taking this initiative a step further, Bisleri is inaugurating India’s first segregation, collection and processing centre for all kinds of plastic at Marol in Mumbai on the 5th June 2021 (World Environment Day). The newly launched 2,400 square feet Bisleri’s clean plastic segregation and collection Centre plot is provided by MCGM’s K-east ward (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) for processing all kinds of used plastic with a capacity to process 25 tons per month. The interiors of the space have been created using 1,50,000 MLP (Multi-layer plastic) recycled bags (biscuits, chips and chocolate wrappers) as partitions. It will be a destination to educate citizens on the importance of plastic segregation and recycling; it will display information about habitual change, recycling processes and display various products made using recycled plastic.

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In an exclusive conversation with Financial Express Online Anjana Ghosh, Director Marketing and Our Social Responsibility, Bisleri International Private Limited shared insights and details on plastic recycling and economy as a concept, why they took the decision to come up with the country’s first segregation, collection and processing centre for plastic, various other measures adopted under the Bottles for Change initiative and more. Excerpts:

What issues does the country face with waste management?

The biggest issue that India faces with (especially Plastic) Waste management is the absolute ignorance among the general public about how to dispose of plastic so that all Plastics can be sent for recycling. If India aspires to manage waste to its desired levels then we have to educate people, create awareness that plastic is not waste, its valuable. According to the Central Pollution Control Board report 2019-2020, India recycles around 60% of the plastic waste generated. Even developed countries like Germany recycle only 56% of its plastics. But the current methodology of scavenging Plastic from Roadside litter and Dump yards makes it impossible to recycle 100% of plastic. Balance  40% of it ends up in landfills, littered on the streets, water bodies etc., and why does this happen,  only because  it’s wrongly disposed of. 80% of Dry waste generated daily is Plastic, if Plastic gets managed then rest is not difficult at all. India will be as clean and beautiful as any developed Country.  This habit of not cleaning and segregating plastic at source leads to a major plastic crisis which is not just prevalent in India but across the entire globe. There is an urgent need to resolve this crisis through methods that are sustainable and effective.

Why is there a need to create awareness about correct methods of waste segregation?

It is important to understand the core problem before we look for a solution. It is also to be noted that plastic waste is supposed to be disposed of in a manner that does not harm the environment. Thinking of plastic as a waste and banning its use is not the solution to the problem because plastic and its products are an integral part of our daily lives. This makes it critical for us to think of the best solution to the problem of plastic pollution which is recycling plastic. Which is already happening to the extent of 60% but the method in which recycling is happening today is wrong and filthy. There is a need to make very simple changes in our daily lives. It starts with our homes where people can segregate their used plastic and clean it. This used plastic is then handed to their janitors or cleaners separately who would then send the plastic for recycling.

Waste Management has to start with the participation of every citizen. And if 80% of that waste is plastic then it’s important to educate citizens, reasons behind the creation of plastic – it was invented to save our natural resources like wood, glass, metals which are not infinite they will deplete and vanish one day.  Plastic was meant to be recycled and not to be thrown away as waste. And things that  get recycled in India have value. We Indian have a unique value system, we do not throw away in waste bin any item that has monetary value or emotional value. Do we put our used Newspaper in waste bins, do we throw away our old clothes, old furniture, old utensils, then why do we throw Plastic in waste ?? India is blessed to have a segment of the society consisting of Rag Pickers, Kabadiwalas and recyclers who are silently working in the current ecosystem and helping India recycle 60% of its Plastic. Each Rag Picker earns around Rs. 200/- per day by scavenging plastic from roadside litter and dump yards. The kabadiwala and the Recycler all make money, there exists an unorganised industry.  Hence its essential not only to create awareness among citizens that used plastic has value, it’s also essential to create a larger ecosystem which will enable India to recycle 100% of its Plastic generated and save our environment  for future generations. India has the opportunity.

How is the Bottles for Change initiative helping to resolve this issue?

Bottles for Change is a functional Model launched in 2017 with an aim to create awareness about the problem of plastic pollution and to also educate citizens on the best ways of plastic disposal. Ensuring 100% of plastic used at home today to  be recycled. This model is a prototype for a large ecosystem that can be successfully implemented across India without any hassle. This model is easy to implement, all one has to do is clean their plastic after use, keep them separate in bags, and give these clean plastic bags to their Cleaner who comes to the doorstep every day. The cleaner then can call the Bottles for Change Van or his nearest Kabadiwala , sell the clean plastic for a better value. The kabadiwala then sells this plastic to the Recycler and the chain is complete. Bottles for Change Model today is an enabler to Source segregation, right from the doorstep plastic is picked up and sent for recycling there by eliminating the dump yards. Our Bottles for Change model has proved, if you educate citizens about the virtues of plastic and ways of right disposal by cleaning and segregating it separately then they are more than willing to change their habits. It’s not an impossible task. Citizens genuinely want to solve the pollution problem but do not know how. Bottles for Change models implemented in a few societies have  recycled 6500 tons of plastic in the past three years.  We have also initiated a multi-city awareness drive.

Bisleri is working very closely with Mumbai Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation, East Delhi Municipal Corporation, North Delhi Municipal Corporation, Panvel Municipal Corporation, Thane Municipal Corporation, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation and Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation helping in implementing the source segregation model. Bottles for Change has reached over 6 lakh individuals, 800 housing societies, 400 schools and colleges, 500 hotels and restaurants, 500 corporates, 600 awareness sessions and has sent more than 6500 tonnes of segregated plastic across various manufacturing industries for recycling. While taking steps towards a cleaner and greener environment, the initiative also aims to empower the green plastic agents by providing them a livelihood through this initiative.

What makes the Marol Plant centre different from the other plastic recycling plants?

Marol Clean Plastic segregation Plant is our Vision of how future plastic segregation and bailing Plants will look if every citizen disposes of clean plastic and  how  plastic that you throw thinking its waste  can be used to create something magnificent. The Marol Plant is India’s first clean plastic collection and segregation plant that itself is made of recycled plastic. The interiors of the space have been created using 1,50,000 MLP (Multi-layer plastic) recycled bags (biscuits, chips and chocolate wrappers) as partitions. For 100 sq. ft. area, 100 kgs of recycled hard plastic blocks (Hard plastic like juice container, food container, toys, shampoo and conditioner bottles etc.) have been used to build the entrance ramp which is strong enough and has the load bearing capacity of up to 30 tons of vehicles. This plant has the capacity to process and segregate 25 tons or plastic per month which means 300 tons of plastic per year can be recycled if proper waste management methods are followed.

What are the uses of recycled plastic, and how can recycling help resolve the plastic crisis?

Recycling is already happening in a big way in India.  India  has a robust Recycling industry, there are approx. 8,000 recycling Plants across the country. Further to resolve the plastic pollution crisis, it is imperative to not look at plastic as some evil and find solutions that are sustainable for the environment. Recycling plastic does exactly that. During the entire process, plastic is collected, processed and then crushed into fine flakes. These flakes are then used to create products such as – cloth fabric, hand bags, window blinds and many others. It is surprising to know how many things around us are made using recycled plastic.  Plastic is valuable and not waste, this mind-set would not only help us in developing a sustainable cycle of plastic production and recycling but will also help in keeping our surroundings cleaner and greener.

What are the future plans for the Bottles for Change initiative?

We aim to help Municipal Corporation and other waste Management cells across cities to implement the Bottles for Change Model. Through this Model, we aim to create public awareness about the right ways of disposing of plastic,  we would like to set up more clean segregation centres with the help of the local authorities. Through this model we would want to improve the lives of Rag Pickers and Kabadiwalas, enable for them a cleaner environment to work, increase their daily earnings and give them a better livelihood.

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