Recycling is the only way ahead: Ashok Chaturvedi
The following is the full text of the keynote address delivered by Ashok Chaturvedi of UFlex at the 9th edition of Speciality Films and Flexible Packaging Global Summit 2022
09 Sep 2022 | By PrintWeek Team
Packaging, especially flexible packaging, is helpful to save food wastage. Everyone needs food and there is no alternative to it. To avoid food wastage, flexible packaging is the only way to transport and preserve the food grown by our farmers.
By opting for flexible packaging, we are helping our farmers, who are the backbone of any country. We respect farmers because they provide food for us. We all know that many things are changing — computers came, supercomputers came, electric vehicles came but there is no alternative to food.
Human body needs food to survive on this earth. When food is so essential, multilayer packaging called flexible packaging is equally important to save it. Think hard and you will see that there is no substitute for multi-layer packaging. So, we have to look at the solutions to tackle its waste.
We found the solution ages back but it was never implemented because of many reasons but suddenly, the whole world has woken up and is talking about recycling. I always say whenever you wake up, that’s your morning!
I have a lot of respect for Peter Steinberg but I disagree with him absolutely that mono-layer packaging is the solution. It is another myth. Recycling is the only answer whether it is mechanical or chemical. We will spend another couple of years in it and come back to the same because we will find that waste from the planet has not gone down. Big companies are claiming that they are zero carbon neutral but the race is going up and it will continue unless we recycle waste.
Flexible packaging is not heavy weight yet collection of flexible packaging waste is very difficult; it's a mammoth job to collect it. I can assure that people who are present here (at Elite Plus) can set up a recycling unit where they find good potential for profitable ventures. Availability of raw material for a recycling plant is a pain. My sincere request to all the people here is please try and create a centre to speak to the government. Whosoever is in a position to talk to them. Let’s speak to the authorities, municipal bodies, civic bodies, who can provide the raw material for such recyclers.
I don’t have any doubt if recyclers get the raw material for recyclers, they will definitely recycle it. We did this 25 years ago and it is still working very well. In all our plants, we have set up a recycling centre and all the waste that we produce and whatever we can get nearby, we are recycling it and making an article of plastic later in the session.
The government also has come up with some EPR rules which are a bit stringent. Such rules will force people to recycle. Collection of waste is the main issue right now. Recycling is not easy. The whole world is worried about recycling.
Our request to the government is to start working with municipal bodies of their own or with a PPP model. India needs 2000 data centres to clean from this waste plastic. Such centres will provide waste plastic, both flexible and rigid to the recyclers and the job is over. So, I request everyone that we have to focus on how to collect the waste. We don't have to focus on how to recycle it. We have that solution already in place.
The whole world, the plastic processors, machinery manufacturers all are well aware of how to recycle mixed plastic waste, how to recycle more raw material, how to recycle flexible packaging. So today I think all of us should not worry at all about what will happen to waste plastic.
Government and municipal bodies should start encouraging people to collect the waste and start allowing people to set up collection centres. I've seen it myself in Poland, Germany and Hungary; we have films manufacturing plants there. I have gone to the municipal bodies over there and what a beautiful system they have. They separate the waste whether it is paper, plastic, glass or others and give it to the garbage collector accordingly and send it to their respective industries.
You will be glad to know that this October; we are coming up with a multi-layer flexible packaging recycling centre in Poland. By the end of this year, even in Mexico we are starting to show to the people that multi-layer flexible packaging does not have a negative value. The cost of the centre will be close to USD 25-26-million. We are doing it but as I told you, this is not a business for Flex.
But believe you me, this USD 25-million investment will not go to waste. It will generate proper EBITDA for the company. It means the model is a do-able model. It is a profitable model provided the businesses get the waste. It should get the raw material via a phone call or by reading a purchase order. There needs to be a supplier of waste material.
We have a recycling centre in Noida, please come and see how we handle waste plastic multi-layer flexible packaging and how the articles are being made. We have been exporting flower pots made out of waste material to Holland for ages. One can make other articles too out of flexible packaging waste and these articles have no dearth of demand.
That day is not far from when one will buy articles made out of plastic waste, when one goes to the market. Diwali is a big festival in India where companies distribute gifts to their employees. This time UFlex has chosen a trolley bag made by VIP. I met the supplier of these bags and told them that I want to use 30% plastic waste to make these trolley bags which I will provide them with from my own plant for its manufacturing. I said, let’s use 70% virgin and 30% recycled raw material.
So, the future of flexible bagging is bright and please stop worrying about it. But we all have to work on recycling, as requested earlier. Also, all the converters should take one step and start recycling in their own ways. People follow the law only; people don't follow requests.
However, I request to the fraternity be it in Europe, whether America, or across the globe, that they should respectfully talk to the government and tell them that they have to come out with a clear simple system, a systematic legislation which allows people to collect waste and this will need municipal body or civic bodies to do the same.