Plastic recycling refers to the method of recovering waste or scrap plastic and reprocessing the materials into practical and helpful products. In recent years India has faced numerous environmental challenges related to plastic generation and inadequate waste assortment, transport, treatment, and disposal. The current waste management systems in India cannot cope up with the massive volumes of plastic generated by an increasing population. The rapid increase in urban population and industrialization also had a massive impact on the surroundings and public health. Moreover, India plans to double its plastic consumption in the next few years without a second thought about the plastic waste generation. These barriers regarding the recycling and proper management of plastic waste are a serious concern for our country.
Stages in Plastic Waste Recycling
Following are the stages in plastic waste recycling:
- Collecting Plastic Waste: Plastic waste collection is the initial stage of plastic waste recycling, where plastic waste is collected through various sources such as Rag Pickers, Municipality, and Kabdiwalas.
- Sorting: The collected plastic is sorted manually or through means of machinery so it can be sent to the shredding machine for further processing.
- Washing: Sorted plastics are further washed to remove the adhesive, residual dust particles, and other impurities.
- Shredding: Plastic is then shredded into smaller pieces once it is properly sorted and washed.
- Classification of Plastic: After shredding, accurate testing of the plastic pellets are conducted to establish their quality and class.
- Melting: In this stage, the shredded plastic waste is melted and converted to a granular form. Some extra filling is added to enhance the properties of the material.
Challenges in Plastic Recycling
India faces major environmental challenges when it comes to inadequate plastic waste collection, treatment, and disposal.
- Lack of Official System: India currently has no proper governing system for plastic waste collection and recycling, nor there are any overarching initiatives by private and public sectors regarding this issue.
- Complexity and Lack of Transparency: The complexity and lack of transparency in the informal recycling system is one of the major barriers.
- Lack of Proper Technology: Lack of technology and the high cost of the recycling machinery is a huge setback associated with plastic waste recycling. India should follow the recycling model of many of its foreign allies and invest more in the plastic waste recycling process to ensure proper treatment and disposal of plastic waste.
- Lack of Government Policies and Infrastructure: Improper segregation of waste at source, lack of proper infrastructure, and government policies regarding plastic waste recycling is another cause of concern.
- Lack of Public Support: Lack of public support regarding plastic recycling is another major issue. Even though the modern generation of our country is aware of the importance of plastic recycling and taking necessary steps to promote plastic recycling, in the grand scheme of things the overall public support is still lacking considering India has a population of more than 135 crores. Private sectors and public sectors should take necessary initiatives for example halting the production of single-use plastic will be a huge step towards a better and safer environment.
- High-density Plastic: Due to the high-density polyethylene which is the most commonly used plastic globally, it occupies more land space and increases the cost of transportation.
- Lack of Acceptance of Recycled Plastic Products: The lack of recycled plastic products acceptance in the current market of our country leads to more plastic waste generation.
Advantages of Plastic Recycling
Plastic recycling not only helps in waste management but also prevents environmental degradation.
- Prevents unnecessary Plastic Production: Plastic serves as a foundation for manufacturing various household goods which are used daily and later discarded as waste, recycling puts the discarded plastic waste in the circular economy.
- Clearing of Landfill Space: According to an article published in Times of India India generates 25,490 tonnes of plastic waste every day, but 40% of the waste generated remains uncollected. These uncollected wastes occupy a large chunk of land in our country.
- Prevents Environmental Degradation: Recycling plastic waste helps reduce the amount of plastic generated each year thus overall limits waste dumping in the environment. Discarded plastic waste is highly toxic in nature and can hurt various animals. It also prevents the production of more virgin plastic and helps to lower our environmental impact.
Although there are plenty of challenges associated with plastic waste recycling the Indian government finally pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022 with an immediate ban in urban Delhi. More such policies should be issued so the country can ensure a better and much safer environment.