Plastic Recycling Decoded

July 12, 2021

Plastics have become an omnipresent part of the everyday life of billions of people. Properties like low cost, low weight, durability, and barrier tendency have gradually raised the demand for plastic materials and it is bound to increase further in the coming years. However, the very same properties make plastic waste an unreasonable prospect when it comes to waste management. 

It is established through the study that the amount of plastic waste generated in the country is uncertain. If the 2015 CPCB study is considered in concurrence with the CPCB annual report of 2018–19, then in a span of four years the reported generation of plastic waste has gone down by almost 60 percent. 

In terms of sources of plastic waste, it was found that close to 60% of the plastic waste is generated by the packaging sector (Rigid and flexible) and over 40% of this plastic falls under the 7th category of plastic- which is generally non-recyclable. Interestingly, packaging plastic also finds it way into the bin or becomes litter in a short span of time, sometimes in minutes. 

In terms of recyclers, a careful analysis of an industry estimate found that the number of formal recycling units in the country has gone down by 97% between 2018 and 2019, while the quantum of plastic recycled in the same period has increased by a meagre 8.3%. Data shared by CPCB also fails to establish the plastic waste processing/ recycling capacity of the country. 

The report also stresses how band-aid solutions like energy recovery are erroneously termed as recycling and are gaining popularity amongst producers and recyclers alike. 

The report illustrates how plastic waste moves across the value chain, and how its price increases as it undergoes several unit operations for most of the categories of plastic waste. It also establishes that most of the plastic waste recycling in the country is done by the informal sector. 

The report introspects the current ecosystem of plastic recycling an recommends urgent need for policy reforms to deal with the plastic waste crisis of the country.


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