YYou may be willing to cut back on plastic bags to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, but there is a major barrier to these cherished ideals that most of us never seem to consider.
Think about this: what is one of the first items you hold onto in the morning, other than your smartphone? ,
For most of you, it’s a tube of toothpaste made from multi-layer plastic (MLP).
And this is not the only MLP around you. Nearly 45 percent of the total plastic waste produced comes from packaging materials.
This includes biscuit or chocolate packaging, tetra packaging and alloys of any food package. These are all made from MLP – which is actually worse than your ‘Single Layered’ plastic bag.
So, what can we do? There are some solutions.
Take the tech startup, Ricon Panels. They help address the problem by recycling MLP waste into building boards that can be turned into classroom benches, toilets and other building materials.
Founded in 2014, the Gujarat-based company now recycles 500 tons of MLPs every day.
A product without waste
Rahul Chaudhary, the director of the company, says he chose this venture to address a pressing environmental problem.
“The Union government also pondered phasing out ‘non-recyclable multi-layer plastic’. But a blanket ban on MLPs would be too disruptive to both the industry and the economy,” he said The better India.
The big problem, Rahul says, is that used MLP products have a low value, such as Rs 1.5-2 per kilo, and are complex to treat.
In addition, the plastic either ends up in landfills or has to be incinerated. If not handled properly, it releases toxins and gases that are harmful to the environment.
“That’s why we decided to tackle the problem by converting them into recycled boards. It also helps to reduce the burden on forests as it is a viable alternative to plywood,” says Rahul.
Rahul says the product is 100 percent recycled and uses proprietary technology to make the planks sustainable.
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 from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India for its innovative solutions to tackle the challenge of plastic waste.
Rahul says the company plans to set up more manufacturing centers across India and sell the product abroad. “We plan to increase the reduction of plastic waste from 500 tons per day to 1,000 tons in the future,” he adds.
What is it good for?
“The plastic packaging products are collected from different sources, separated into different categories, cleaned and processed,” he says.
He explains that the company has innovated technology that preserves the physical properties of the plastic without compromising its quality.
“The result is a sheet that resembles plywood and is made of 100 percent plastic with no materials added,” he says.
The material is fire retardant, waterproof, rustproof, termite resistant and heat resistant.
“One of the demanding applications of these sheets is making roof sheets. Conventional tin or plastic sheets become brittle or rust in six to eight years. It needs to be replaced or repaired regularly considering the weather conditions in India. However, the products made with our innovation can last at least 15 years,” he says.
The product’s other uses are as paving block pallets, movable cabins, fly ash brick pallets, autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) (a lightweight, prefabricated building material), formwork material and floors.
The entrepreneur says that using the material for building a house is also cost-effective. “The construction estimate is about Rs 125 per square foot. It will cost around Rs 3.12 lakh to build a 2,500 square meter house with the recycled boards,” he adds.
Rahul says the company also offers a buyback policy to customers. “Instead of throwing the sheets away, the customers can sell them back to the company for 30 percent of the invoice value. The plates can be recycled again,” he says.
Jaswant Jain, the owner of the Mumbai-based Rich Surface Decor store, is one of the users of the material.
“I use the roof sheets and sell them to customers. The main advantage is that it benefits the environment. It’s also convenient to use as a roofing material because it’s quiet, unlike other materials that make unwanted noise when raindrops hit the surface,” he says.
Jaswant says the sheets cost the same as the other premium conventional sheets.
Edited by Vinayak Hegde