According to the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) - oldest and largest global recycling federation, "The recyclables should be recognised as the 7th most important resource, after water, air, coal, oil, natural gas and minerals. There is an urgent need to raise awareness about the 7th resource and enhance the perception that recycling is about creating a clean and sustainable environment for us and for future generations."
By 2025, India's waste management sector is expected to be worth US$13.62 billion with an annual growth rate of 7.17 percent. India produces 62 million tons of solid waste per year, but only about 75-80% of the municipal waste gets collected and 22-28% of that waste is processed and treated, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
Out of which, plastic is the most recycled material at the rate of 60%, most of it in the informal sector.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) is a food grade plastic which is globally used for food and pharma packaging has the highest rate of recycling. India generates over 900 tonnes of PET annually and has a recycling rate of over 95%, since PET bottles attract the best price in the recycling chain.
Dr. Gauri Pathak, Homi Bhabha Fellow and Assistant Professor, Aarhus University, Denmark, said, "India has a very strong and effective informal recycling economy, comprising of rag pickers and downstream recyclers. However, currently we are not leveraging this economy to the fullest. In order to address the problem of plastic pollution, we, as a country, along with industry need to work with rag pickers and recyclers to maximize recycling and resource use. There are several excellent initiatives and NGOs trying to help municipal and civic bodies to work more closely with rag pickers to understand their needs and to make the process from disposal to collection and recycling as effective as possible."
"Plastic recycling is a source of livelihood for many of the most vulnerable citizens of our country, and it also helps in optimizing the use of limited resources. For instance, a circular economy (where waste and use of new raw materials are minimized) of easily recyclable plastics like PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and HDPE (high density polyethylene) substantially reduces the carbon footprint of consumer goods," Dr. Pathak added.
Plastic packaging is one of the largest applications and accounts for 26% of the total volume of plastics used across the globe. Plastic packaging volumes are expected to double within 15 years and increase four times by 2050, to 318 million tonnes annually - which is more than the entire plastics industry today.
Sachin Sharma, Director of GEM Recycling, one of the largest PET recycling companies in India, said, "The Indian recycle industry employees close to 4 million people, directly or indirectly. Since plastic, especially PET bottles attract high recycling price, it is one of the best ways of income generation for a variety of people attached to the industry from rag pickers to the recyclers. We need to collectively address the real problems that are harming the environment - our irresponsible behavior manifesting as littering and ineffective waste management system. We see Reverse Vending Machine (RVM) as the right solution for post-consumer use PET bottles collection to responsible recycling. A holistic approach and efforts by all in the value chain can help us implement a right system with support from the government and citizens.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)