India has been growing fast in all sectors, which has led to the development of unorganized sectors. With new programmes like education for all, supporting girl child, Swachh Bharat, the country is set to grow to new horizons. The clean India movement has seen participation from all segments of society. Recycling and waste management is an integral part of this programme, and the Government is determined to develop effective policies in this segment.
In India, the informal waste collection has played a crucial role for decades. However, low recycling rate vs. increasing waste volume is indeed a concern that needs to be addressed. A large volume of waste is disposed of in dumping grounds and is believed to increase manifolds if timely action is not taken. Currently, recycling is limited to large cities with proper infrastructure for waste management.
The Government is trying to integrate the waste management system by bringing in all the aspects associated in alignment with each other. Day labourers, waste collectors, dealers, recyclers all need to work in a network for a better future.
Waste Recycling: Vast yet Unorganized Industry
With the introduction of EPR in India, the Government has taken initial steps towards the goal; however, a lot of work still remains to be done to ensure an effective system in this sector. The good part is that there are companies that have established recycling units and can process substantial waste quantities each year. Here are some highlights of the recycling industry:
- Indeed the Municipal bodies are the backbone of this industry. They have been collecting waste from every home each day. Tonnes of waste is collected each day, and if every individual disposes of the trash per the government guidelines, the local bodies can work more efficiently.
- The Government has been creating awareness amongst users about segregation of waste and appealing to masses to dispose of recyclable waste separately. An increasing number of people are now following the protocol, and in the future, this will have a crucial role.
- PET bottle recycling is gaining momentum, and the authorities plan to make recycling PET a mandate for the manufacturers who introduce such products. The aim is to eliminate all the non-recyclable alternatives that manufacturers use. This will ensure less use of virgin plastic in new products; hence, the plastic waste will be easy to manage in the long run.
- Paper disposal in wastelands is also an issue. Nowadays, people are also discarding paper, which has led to piling in landfills while paper manufacturers face a shortage of waste paper. Earlier, paper manufacturers used to recycle paper and re-introduce it in the cycle. Still, with the current situation, it is difficult to manage the demand without manufacturing new paper, which in turn means the need for more wood pulp.
The need for Mandatory EPR
In 2012, EPR was announced to deal with e-waste, and later in 2016, plastic waste was added to this. In India, it is a voluntary practice that organizations can take up. Surprisingly, even today, a few companies have considered EPR as part of their operations, which means that only a limited quantity of plastic waste is taken back, recycled, and reused by the manufacturers. Considering the situation, the Government is now making EPR a mandatory process for all plastic PIBOs. This would make them liable to recover all the plastic they produce and give to the end-user.
It is known that PET bottles are recyclable, and most manufacturers are using them for their product packaging. But this strategy will not be successful if the waste is not taken and recycled. Recyclers can transform PET bottles to polyester fiber which is in great demand in the clothing industry. Hence, if the manufacturers and recyclers act responsibly and follow EPR religiously, there can be immense development in this sector.
The Government has set up a guideline that every recycled PET Flakes manufacturer in India must follow. They are accredited to carry out the recycling process since they have apt equipment, technology, and a trained workforce. These recycling companies play a vital role in managing and recycling waste. The companies work in collaboration with local waste-collecting bodies, which reduces the burden on municipalities.
Municipal bodies bear the cost of managing waste which means that indirectly, the taxpayers are paying for the process. People are now becoming aware of the aspects and benefits of waste recycling, and hence, the transition has begun at the ground level.
The Future of India’s Recycling Industry
With constant efforts by Government bodies and increasing awareness, a positive change can be expected in the Indian waste management and recycling industry. The companies in the recycling business will continue to contribute towards a better India. With improved collection rates, effective channels from end-user to recycler and back to the manufacturer, the plastic waste can be managed. EPR indeed will play a vital role since manufacturers will be lawfully liable to take back and recycle plastic waste.
Non-recyclable plastics should be eliminated since they tend to interfere with the environment. Incidents have been reported where plastic has caused the death of animals, sea life, and birds. Also, this type of plastic interferes with the soil composition and leaches contamination. For humans as well, non-recyclable plastic is harmful since it does not decompose and causes pollution.
But then we should also understand that designing recyclable plastic is not the solution; effective recycling is. With current recycling rates, India has a challenging journey ahead. We all need to join hands and support the Government by sensibly using plastic products and then discarding them in the right way. On the other hand, the manufacturers should come forward and take up EPR as this will benefit them in the long term.
Countries have implemented EPR successfully, and everyone here should learn from them as our actions today will decide the quality of our lives in the future. If we continue littering the dumping grounds with plastic waste, time will come when each individual suffers from a severe illness. Thus, it is necessary to act wisely today; after all, our future generations deserve a clean and green environment to dwell.