You might be willing to cut down on plastic bags to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, but there is a major hindrance to these fond ideals that most of us never seem to consider.
Consider this – what is among the first items you hold in the morning, apart from your smartphone? ,
For most of you – it is a tube of toothpaste made from multi-layered plastic (MLP).
And this is not the only MLP around you. Nearly 45 per cent of the total plastic waste generated comes from packaging materials.
This includes biscuit or chocolate wrappers, tetra packs and alloy any food packet. These are all made of MLP – which is actually worse than your ‘Single Layered’ plastic bag.
So what can we do? There are some solutions.
Take the tech startup, Ricron Panels. They are helping address the problem by recycling MLP waste into construction boards that transform into classroom benches, toilets and other construction materials.
Formed in 2014, the Gujarat-based company today recycles 500 tons of MLPs each day.
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A product with zero waste
Rahul Chaudhary, the director of the company, says that he chose this venture to address a pressing environmental issue.
“The Union government also mulled over phasing out ‘non-recyclable multi-layered plastic’. But a blanket ban of MLPs would be too disruptive for the industry as well as the economy,” he tells The Better India.
The big issue, Rahul says, is that used MLP products receive low value, such as Rs 1.5-2 per kilo, and are complex to treat.
Moreover, the plastic either ends up in landfills or has to undergo incineration. If not processed in the appropriate manner, it releases toxins and gases that harm the environment.
“Hence, we decided to address the issue by converting them into recycled boards. It also helps to reduce the burden on the forests as it serves as a viable alternative for plywood,” Rahul says.
Rahul says the product is 100 per cent recycled and uses proprietary technology to make the boards durable.
The company also claims to have obtained zero discharge certification from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
In 2019, it received the Green Pro Certification Award from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Climate Solver Award by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India for its innovative solutions to tackle the plastic waste challenge.
Rahul says the company plans to set up more manufacturing centres across India and sell the product overseas. “We plan to increase plastic waste mitigation from 500 tons a day to 1,000 tons in future,” he adds.
What it is good for
“The plastic packaging products are collected from various sources, segregated according to various categories, cleaned and processed,” he says.
He explains that the company innovated technology that retains the physical properties of the plastic material without affecting the quality.
“What results is a sheet similar to plywood made from 100 per cent plastic without any materials added to them,” he says.
The material is fire retardant, water-proof, rust-proof, termite-proof and heat-resistant.
“One of the demanding usages of these boards is to make roofing sheets. The conventional sheets made from tin or plastic turn brittle or rust in six to eight years. It needs frequent replacements or repairs, given the weather conditions in India. However, the products made from our innovation can last for at least 15 years,” he claims.
The other applications of the product are as paver block pallets, portable cabins, fly ash brick pallets, Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) (a lightweight, precast building material), shuttering material and flooring.
The entrepreneur says that using the material for constructing a house is also cost-effective. “The construction estimate comes to around Rs 125 per square feet. It costs about Rs 3.12 lakh to build a 2,500 square feet house with the recycled sheets,” he adds.
Rahul says that the company also offers a buy-back policy to customers. “Instead of discarding the sheets, the customers can sell it back to the company at 30 per cent the invoice value. The boards can be recycled once again,” he says.
Jaswant Jain, the owner of Mumbai-based Rich Surface Decor shop, is one of the users of the material.
“I am using the roofing sheets and selling them to customers. The main advantage is that it benefits the environment. Also, using it as roofing sheets is convenient as it is quiet, unlike other materials that create unwanted noise when raindrops hit the surface,” he says.
Jaswant says that the sheets cost the same as the other premium conventional sheets.
Edited by Vinayak Hegde