A private initiative is buying the plastic waste collected by around 150 ragpickers in and around Chikkabanavara, enabling them to earn a sizable Rs 4,000 a month.
It then sends the plastic waste as fuel to the cement industry to replace coal.
The initiative is a joint venture of Indian Beauty & Hygiene Association (IBHA) and Isha Fiber and Fuel Source (IFFS). It segregates used tetra packs, snack covers and plastic materials with aluminium coating compress and transports them to the cement industry.
Though the materials pollute the air when they are burnt and are declared unfit for recycling, they could substitute coal in the cement industry, which the state pollution control board actually permits since they are burnt at temperatures above 500 degrees Celsius.
“India discards 80% of plastic, around 25,000 tons per day, which goes to landfills,” IBHA president Dinesh Dayal told DH. “Bengaluru alone is generating around 3,500 tonnes of waste per day, 100 tonnes of which is thin plastic.”
He said three tonnes of thin plastic can replace two tonnes of coal at the cement industry. “The material we transport (to the cement factories) is useless and a pollutant.”
The initiative would also give ragpickers a chance to develop skills and find employment, while also ensuring financial security.
Ragpickers are incentivised based on the weight of the plastic they collect. While a kilo of plastic fetches them Rs 4, they could earn up to Rs 100 a day by collecting 30 tonnes of plastic. “Earlier, we thought only glass bottles and (empty) milk sachets would earn us more. But we now understand the value of the waste,” Rahul, a ragpicker from Delhi, said. “Besides collection, segregation of waste keeps us occupied the whole day. We are earning our livelihood and there is guaranteed money if we do our work,” he added.
People behind the initiative have plans to tie up with BBMP to increase the amount of waste. Besides cement, the plastic waste could also be used in other ways like road construction. “We are able to help the ragpickers as well as the environment though this initiative,” Dayal said.