The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation’s (GHMC) dog park is a pop of colour contrasting the mundanity outside. Not only is the greenery in the park a great contributor, but the bright blue-green-pink tiles on the pavement enhance its look manifold.
If you read the information board outside, you’ll understand that the tiles are not simply colourful, but made of several plastic items compressed perfectly, to make small tiles.
Shayna EcoUnified, an organisation based in Uttar Pradesh manufactures these tiles. It was founded in 2018 after Paras Saluja’s leisure trip to Vietnam. “In fact, it was way back in 2015 when I did the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek that the passion to do something useful for the country ignited in me,” he tells The Better India.
He continues that the EBC is one of the most beautiful places on earth and that it attracts a lot of trekkers every year. But the amount of plastic and waste left behind by enthusiastic travellers is shameful. “At that point, I didn’t know what to do. But my trip to Vietnam in 2017 cleared it. I wanted to change my career from pharmaceuticals to recycling plastic sustainably.”
After this trip, Paras poured himself into extensive research about waste, and how to manage and recycle plastic. The solutions he found were inspiring, but one idea merged with his vision like blocks of Lego (or like the tiles he would later make).
Plastic waste—everything from shopping bags to chairs—could be made into tiles. The manufacturing process would also emit less pollution.
Paras met with government officials and scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). Incidentally, NPL was working on a technology that could compress plastic waste into tiles. Without sparing a thought, he jumped on the opportunity to scale up their business.
“Working with the NPL, we secured a deal for a plant in North India,” Paras tells me. He adds that they are working with government-approved technology that upcycles plastic while preventing poisonous gases from being let out. The process ensures that the tiles “are anti-microbial”.
Why is it important that upcycled tiles be anti-microbial? Paras answers that most people he approached were sceptical of buying them because they did not trust recycled objects. And when it came to something as long-term as their home, people preferred materials like marble and ceramic for floor and wall tiling. So, he has been targeting governmental organisations and corporates to make their premises colourful and eco-friendly.
Paras joined Sandeep Nagpal and his team at Shayna in managing plastic waste sustainably and economically. Sandeep has 25 years of experience in the field of distribution.
Paras tells us that Shayna has partnered with local scrap vendors, NGOs, as well as schools to collect their plastic waste. He elaborates, “We pay about Rs 55-60 per kg for things like milk bags. Once the waste is collected, we segregate it manually, according to polymers and colours. On average, a person takes about a day to separate 800-900 kg waste.”
After this, they put the raw material in the first machine—the shredder.
The plastic material is divided into three parts—toys, disposable cutlery, chairs, and tables, which consist of Polypropylene (PP); PET bottles, their caps, and crates are made of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE); while the Low-Density Polyethylene makes up milk pouches, mainly.
Each type of tile produced at Shayna requires a different density of the material and hence, segregation is necessary.
Once shredded, the plastic is sent for washing, drying, mixing (with granules that help in making the tiles anti-microbial), extruding, and finally placing them into moulds. Depending on the size of the final tiles, it may take about 1 kg of plastic to make four tiles or 2 kg of plastic to make one.
Currently, Shayna manufactures six varieties of tiles and can produce about three lakh units per month.
“Each process, right from procuring the materials, costs us money and so, we can’t really say that our tiles are cheaper than the cement ones. But then, this view is quite myopic and if you widened your vision, you would realise that cement tiles on pavements are replaced every three years or so. But we guarantee fifteen years on paths with vehicular movement and 50 years on walkways. So even if you spend about 30-40% more when you first buy Shayna tiles, in the long run, they will serve you better,” Paras claims.
Paving a green way to the future
Since 2018, Shayna has already transformed close to 275 tonnes of plastic into six lakh tiles. These tiles, used at the GHMC dog park in Hyderabad, and the NPL are light, compact and come with an interlocking feature.
Speaking to CNBC TV, Paras had said, “Our tiles are anti-static, antimicrobial and anti-bacterial which can sustain heat up to 140°C and cold up to -25°C. Damaged tiles can be reused to manufacture new ones.”
Shayna had started their projects with pavement tiles, but today, they are also experimenting with designer tiles that could adorn your walls and give a distinguished look to your home. Paras stresses that one shouldn’t be sceptical of tiles made from waste. Rather, you should be proud of helping prevent waste from entering the environment.
We couldn’t agree more.
Speaking about his challenges, the 33-year-old shares that cost is a big issue. “We throw away plastic, and so, the general idea is that we can easily get it as raw material too. But this is far from the truth. We spend quite a lot of money to procure the materials, and this is just the first of the 11-odd steps. Moreover, since we are still a small enterprise that manufactures according to demand, it costs us money. People appreciate the idea but are yet to accept it for themselves. I would say that we have just entered the front yard of people in a way, and now, we wish to knock on their doors.”
For more information on these innovative, pretty and eco-friendly, high-quality tiles in your parking lot, pavement or garden, reach out to Paras on email@example.com.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
All images courtesy Paras Saluja.