Used plastic to fuel cement plants in Meghalaya

Residents deposit plastic waste in a Meghalaya village. Photo/Meghalaya government

As voices advocating the ban of single-use plastic grow louder, the hilly state of Meghalaya has found a way to deal with its plastic waste.

The state government has signed an agreement with a cement company, which will use 17 tons of plastic waste, which were collected by the rag pickers and village level volunteers across Meghalaya, as fuels to produce clinkers.

"We are trying to find out different ways to get rid of the plastics, which have clogged our streams, rivers and polluted streets. One of the ways is to use them as fuel in cement factories. The company has retrofitted its plants for use of plastics as fuel instead of coal. The pollution control board has been asked to monitor the ambient air quality so that harmful chemicals are not released in the air after burning of the plastics," Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said at a function to mark 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Chief Minister had earlier launched a plastic challenge campaign in the state under which residents including village heads were encouraged to collect the wastes from the streets, streams and rivers. "Plastic wastes are also being used to make roads. People have taken part in large numbers in our mission to make Meghalaya a plastic-free state and we hope to achieve our goal soon," Sangma said.

A government spokesperson said the cement company will directly pay Rs. 30 per kg of plastic wastes to the scrap dealers, engaged by Swachh Bharat Mission office for collection and transportation of the wastes. 

Several private cement companies have their plants in Meghalaya as the hilly state has a rich reserve of limestones. These companies now rely on coal, also mined in the state, as fuel.

The state government had launched a cudgel against polythene in 2018 when it constructed a stretch of a road in Nongstoin and later another stretch in Tura in Garo Hills area this year with plastic wastes. The state government plans to use plastic wastes to make another 10-km road in Sohra, a favourite tourist place.

The state government has imposed a complete ban on the use of plastic cups, spoons/forks, straws, bags, folders, plastic-wrapped bouquets, plastic water bottles and styrofoam in government offices and events from September 1. 

The official said people were taking part in the mission in large numbers. "For example, In Urksew-Wahpathaw village in Pynursla block every Saturday at 4 pm people gather with plastic waste. Pomlahier village in Mawrynkhneng block passed legislation that on 30th of every month all households will carry plastic waste to a designated location in the village. A recycler identified by Swachh Bharat Mission, Gramin has evacuated five tonnes of plastic waste so far," said the official.

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