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The ‘waste’ supply chain

Ashish Jain, Director, IPCA

Established in 2001, the Indian Pollution Control Association (IPCA) is an NGO that started its journey with Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) collection, segregation and recycling for various stakeholders. At present, IPCA is a member of expert and core committees constituted by The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Government of Delhi and Government of Jammu and Kashmir. For effective plastic waste management, IPCA has established Dry Waste Collection Centres in 30 states/UTs and has set up a recycling unit in Greater Noida.

Ashish Jain, Director, IPCA writes about its 20-year journey, making waste generators responsible for their waste and how waste has its own supply chain.

Since 2017, IPCA has collected more than 150 lakh metric tonnes of plastic waste and was able to scientifically dispose of it to recycling/co-processing units. We follow a sustainable supply chain for effective plastic waste management. Starting from the right collection practices to disposing of plastic waste scientifically, we have managed to develop a system that is self-sustainable.

IPCA is India’s first organization to prepare and execute the country’s foremost joint Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) action plant in 2017 and is recognised by CPCB as a waste management agency providing assistance and solutions for EPR activities of Producers, Importers & Brand-Owners (PIBO). Started with just five brands initially (Pepsi, Dabur, Perfetti, DS, and Nestle), we have expanded our network to more than 150 PIBOs over a span of three years.

Plastic waste management

Through our systematic approach, we have developed a sustainable supply chain (collection, segregation, recycling/processing) for Multi-Layered Packaging (MLP), Non-MLP, paper beverage carton waste or any other plastic waste commodity, and have established a network of authorised recyclers and co-processors across all Indian states and UTs. In 2020-21, IPCA associated with a total of 334 organizations that include brand owners, municipal corporations, collection partners, co-processors and recycling partners.

Plastic pollution in the environment, particularly in water bodies, is a global catastrophe. A dump truck-load of plastic enters the ocean every minute, sullying coastlines, harming wildlife, and polluting our food supply. A problem can go on for a long time before anything substantial happens; by then, the issue of plastic waste has reached its tipping point.

We have the opportunity to drive change by implementing awareness strategies that guarantee behavioural change. We can all agree with the fact that plastic is a bigger problem only when it is not managed properly, and utilisation rate along with its littering rate surpasses the recycling or processing rate; this is the real problem at hand. Blaming producers and policy makers won’t help, and it’s time we take responsibility for the waste we generate.

Working with corporates

Keeping that in mind, IPCA and its clients have been coming up with several innovative initiatives for the past few years, as part of CSR activities to manage plastic waste efficiently. The central idea behind these CSR initiatives is: I take responsibility for the plastic waste I generate. This idea is easy to plant in the minds of consumers as they take ownership of the waste they generate and hence, work towards its management.

My 10 kg Plastic Campaign (with Dabur India) and Bottles for Change Campaign (with Bisleri) are two very effective drives that focus on decentralised plastic waste management. Such campaigns motivate citizens to manage their plastic waste by educating and sensitising them about Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016, the hazards such waste poses on the environment and relevant dos & don’ts. We utilise engaging Information, Education and Counselling (IEC) material to keep citizens informed.

Another aspect that we touch upon through our campaigns is the health & hygiene of rag-pickers. On a regular basis, IPCA conducts awareness workshops for waste workers and educates them on following good practices while collecting, segregating and disposing of waste.

Segregate to recycle

A lot of our IEC focuses on the importance of source segregation. At present, more than 150 societies in Delhi NCR segregate their plastic waste; this waste is collected by waste collectors from its source of generation and is sent to the Material Recovery facility (MRF) for secondary segregation, baling and transportation to the Plastic Recycling Facility (PRF). At the PRF, baled and compacted plastic waste is shredded into micro plastics and is fed into a hot and cold press to manufacture plastic chip boards. These chipboards are utilised to make consumer products like chairs, tables, trays etc. The unutilised plastic waste is channelised to the WtE (Waste-to-Energy) plant for energy recovery.

To meet the goal of effective plastic waste management, bringing together stakeholders with different points of view and goals is extremely important. Plastic does not belong to nature and has been problematic for us since its inception. We need to work together to stop it from ending up in our environment.

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