According to the Manipur government, plastic comprises 5% of the total solid waste generated in Imphal per day. Consequently, in June 2018, it issued a total ban on the use of plastic bags.
However, for 58-year-old Usham Krishna Singh, an employee with the Public Health Engineering Department in the state government, this move wasn’t enough to tackle the menace of plastic waste. Something needed to be done about the plastic water bottles littered across the towns and cities of the state as well.
Krishna decided that he would manufacture brooms out of disposable plastic bottles, and took the assistance of his 30-year-old son, Usham Ashok Singh, who owns an electronic repairing shop in Imphal.
In a conversation with NDTV, Krishna said, “Initially, some people mocked me when I used to collect disposed of plastic bottles from streets in my bag every time I used to go to work or to run an errand or just for a stroll. But it did not discourage me. Rather, I used to feel even more motivated to try harder in my pursuit of building a machine for recycling plastic. With time people of my village understood me and now some people even bring empty plastic bottles to my home.”
Describing the process, Krishna says he “uses a horse-knife with the help of which the plastic bottles are sliced to very thin pieces, almost in the form of threads.”
“The plastic threads are then made rigid by applying hot air-gun used by Ashok in repairing mobile phones. He uses bamboo sticks to hold the plastic threads. For manufacturing one broom, 30 bottles of one-litre capacity are required,” he said.
‘Usham Bihari & Maipak Plastic Recycle Industry,’ the self-help group (SHG) established by Krishna, drives all these efforts. It also assists residents across ten villages to acquire a decent income.
The SHG currently manufactures two types of brooms using disposable plastic water bottles and soft drinks plastic bottles, respectively. The former sells for Rs 150 apiece while the latter sells for Rs 200.
Krishna further developed this technology and acquired an electric motor, and thanks to his efforts, 20-30 brooms are now manufactured every day. So far, the SHG has produced 500 brooms, and Krishna has personally invested Rs 20,000 for the entire production set up.
He is currently in the process of registering the SHG as an SME.
The fact of the matter is that Krishna is learning about plastic recycling technology as he is moving forward. Besides disposable plastic bottles, he wants to use other single-use plastic items like plates, cups and straws in his production process.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)