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Swachh Bharat through recycling of waste

[box type=”shadow” ]Over the years the world (land, water &air) is increasingly being polluted and environment protection agencies are fighting a losing battle. The main pollutants are the solid wastes which contaminate the water bodies and restrict the free flow and prevent their natural biological purification. J.C. Mahanti, Adya Pulp & Paper Consultants Ltd, discusses suitable systems for waste collection[/box]

India, is the 2nd largest nation in the world with a population of 1.3 billion.The per capita waste generation rate in India increased from 0.44kgs/ day in 2001 to 0.5kgs/ day in 2011, fueled by changing life style and increased purchasing power. The total solid waste generation in the country is estimated to be 68.8 million tonnes/ year(188,500 TPD).

A typical solid waste management system displays an array of problems, including low collection coverage and irregular collection services, crude open dumping and burning without air and water pollution control, the breeding of flies and vermin, and the handling and control of informal waste picking or scavenging activities.

A major component of solid waste is discarded packaging material that is not useful or of economic value to it’s owner i.e. the waste generator. Litter is the waste that is discarded on public property for collection by the cleaning agencies. It mainly comprises of bottles, wrappers and cartons, cigarette stubs, etc.

Packaging is defined as any material which is used to contain, protect, handle, deliver and present goods while at the same time, maintaining the brand image. According to the World Packaging Organisation, the global packaging industry has an annual turnover of US$ 500 billion. A number of key social and market trends are having a major impact on packaging in recent years. These include: smaller households with consequent demand for smaller pack size, increasing requirement of ready to process food & beverages and the growing use of cosmetics and packaged healthcare products. The Indian packaging industry constitutes about 4% of the global packaging industry. The per capita packaging consumption in India is quite low at 3.4kgs, compared to many other countries (like China 20kgs, Germany 42kgs & USA 71kg).

Today, packaging material used comprises mainly paper and plastics. Environmental awareness and statutory regulations have led to use of ecofriendly packaging materials. Manufacturers are now under pressure to use materials for packaging and adopt methods that have less adverse impact on the environment as part of their Extended Producer’s Responsibility (EPR).

The estimated total annual consumption has been tabulated below:

Material Use Reasons for preference Consumption, million
Paper & board Cartons, boxes, bags & wrappers. Light weight, low cost, easy availability & disposal 6.50
Plastics. Pouches, bottles, caps, cartons, bags,
wrappers, containers.
Light weight, corrosion resistant, versatility of use, attractive display. 8.50
Aluminium Collapsible tubes, foils, cans & closures,
Tasteless & odourless with good barrier properties, greaseproof & shrinkproof. 3.00
Glass Bottles, jars & jugs. Good strength with high rigidity, transparent, gas & water vapour barrier,
chemically inert.
Tin plate Cans, containers & caps. High strength with good barrier properties, long self life, reusable & recyclable. 6.50
Laminates(plastics &
Pouches, films, tubes & bags. High strength with good barrier properties, grease resistant, attractive design
display, suitable for heat sealing.
Others 5.00


Today a major part of the paper produced is being used for packaging of goods. Changes in consumer preferences, rising petrochemical costs have led to food and consumer products companies to look for alternatives to plastics based packaging. While, glass, plastics and metals are recycled, paper is both recyclable and biodegradable hence, more manufacturers are opting for paper based packaging. With growth in demand key special grades paper have evolved to meet different packaging options. Presently, about seven million tonnes of paper is being consumed in India for packaging, of which only 33% is being collected and recycled.

In spite of the reservations, Plastics are the material of choice in packaging for the sectors such as FMCG, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals etc. due to innovative visual appeal for customer attraction and convenience. Additionally, they improve the hygiene quotient and shelf-life of the products. As they are light weight,the high product to package ratio results in lighter weighed end product. (For example, only one kilogramme of flexible plastics can deliver approximately 40kgs of beverage; compared to two kilogrammes of aluminium or 35kgs of glass) Besides, plastics can be reused and recycled with low energy requirements during production.

As estimated by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste are produced every day, of which about 60% is recycled. While the recycling rate is quite high(Global average 14%), over 6,100 tonnes end up as landfillor polluting ground water resources.

The present situation and it’s solution 

The present landfill method creates land pollution (and in most cases, ground water contamination). The waste is not sorted for recycling, composting or any other form of environmental treatment. Hazardous toxic wastes lie side by side with organic wastes in the landfill. Quite often, the garbage is dumped in the bank of the neighbouring river. In most rural areas there is no organised garbage collection and it is dumped on the nearest vacant public land earmarked for cattle grazing and other public purposes. Also, the land by the sides of the passing railway lines are littered with paper, plastics, bottles etc. thrown by passengers from the passing trains.

How to overcome the problems

Dirt is the right thing in the wrong place. For example, grease is not dirt in the chain of the bicycle but becomes so, on the sleeve of the shirt. Similarly, paper, plastic and metal wastes etc. are valuable material for recycling if handled properly. As a first step, packaging material (like bottles, cans, cartons etc.) should be reused as far as practicable. Glass bottles can be reused 50 times and pet bottles up to 15 times. The material discarded as garbage should be segregated and stored in separate containers for recycling or suitable disposal. This is a very important step as contaminated material is often not suitable for recycling. Organic material like kitchen and garden waste should be converted to compost and enrich the soil. Of course, reuse is preferable to recycling as the later involves loss of material, consumption of energy and causes pollution.

Recycling means that natural resources are used in an efficient way and it contributes to sustainable development. According to Pete Grogan, nationally recognized authority on resource recycling, who recently earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Recycling Coalition, USA. “Tossing paper into a landfill is not a sustainable practice, it depletes resources, wastes energy, and represents a missed opportunity to participate in the multi-million dollar recycling economic sector.” Recycling one Ton of corrugated containers saves 390Kwh of energy & 5 Cum of landfill. Considering the importance of Recyclables as a natural resource, Ranjit Singh Baxi President of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR, Head quarter at Brussels) has announced that the first Global Recycling Day will take place on 18th March 2018. The Wealth Out of Waste(WOW) campaign in Gujrat is dedicated to the education of girl children by earnings from sale of old papers donated by citizens.

Used newspapers, copy books, text books, magazines etc. are either used for making paper bags and/ or recycled to produce newsprint and writing printing papers. Similarly, discarded corrugated cartons are recycled to produce Kraft paper which is again converted to corrugated cartons. The paper waste in the garbage comprises of mixture of all varieties crumpled or in small sizes which cannot be sold normally. However, these are suitable for producing paper boards used for making cartons, boxes and other products.

The recovery and recycling rate of waste paper in India is presently below 30% where as it is 73% in Western Europe (Global 57%).

About 15,342 tonnes of plastics waste is produced in India every day of which 60% is recycled. According to Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FIICCI), the plastics recycling industry in India employs over1. 6 million people and has more than 7,500 recycling units. In HDPE bottle-to-bottle recycling, the process of used-material sorting and separation must meet highest demands. For example, food-quality packaging is being generated from HDPE milk bottles. It must be guaranteed that different types of plastics and contaminant materials are reliably separated. Since, the garbage collectors are paid by weight, there is no incentive for them to sort out the waste.

Mechanised sorting units should be installed in all the Metros to handle the huge volume of garbage produced. This will boost recycling and reduce the amount of garbage to be disposed off.

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