Problem is not the use of plastic, but lack of recycling: Expert

Experts in the field of recycling, waste management and environment, including Padma Shri Kartikeya Vikram Sarabhai, director, Centre for Environment Education, attended the two-day seminar and exhibition on recycling, waste management and environment organised by MGNG Global Events, a sister concern of Dynamic Outreach on 15 and 16 June 2019 at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.

17 Jun 2019 | By Rahul Kumar

R Vasudevan, the plastic man of India, during the conference

It was the first global conference and awards ceremony by MGNG Global Events.

During his presentation, Sarabhai explained how we are breaking our existing and ancient cycles of conserving environment. “We used to consume fruits and other corps according to the season, but nowadays, super markets are offering all fruits and corps in all season,” he said.

Dwelling upon the traditional methods of waste management, he gave the example of cow dung. “In rural areas, cow dung is not a waste. It is a either conventional source of energy or it is a fertiliser, but in the urban parts of the country, it is considered a waste,” he said.

On recycling flexible substrates, he said segregation and collection of waste is important. In India, the major problem is not the production and consumption of plastics but the collection and segregation. “People and organisations are using recycled plastics wonderfully by creating end products, but we have very few such examples,” he said.

Another Padma Shri awardee R Vasudevan, known as the plastic man of India, said plastic is the most beautiful gift of technology. “It is a true friend of the common man. It is the most economical and easily available material for our daily needs. That’s why no one is able to stop its consumption. Few state governments have banned plastic bags but this is not the way because it is very minimal and plastic can’t be banned because it is part of our ecosystem,” he said.

On the issues concerning the impact of plastic, Vasudevan said, “We don’t have a process in place to collect and segregate the waste; we throw waste on roads. That’s why it seems that we are the largest consumer of plastic, but that is not true. Overseas countries are consuming far more than us but because of their well-managed recycling plant, nothing goes in waste. For example, we have built roads with plastic waste and those roads are functioning well compared to cemented roads.”

He argued that every waste is a raw material for other processes and products.

The conference also revealed that the total demand for polymer in India is 19.15-mmt (the production is 11.75-mmt, import is 4.21-mmt, export is 1.76-mmt and recycled is 5-mmt). The country’s installed capacity to produce virgin polymer is 14.12-mmt and India consumes 14.3-kg polymer per capita.