Among the 7 types of plastic is Multi-Layered Plastics (MLP), which presents the most viable and cost-effective packaging options for FMCG companies. However, Challenges in MLP Collection and processing are a daunting task owing to zero value in the recycling value chain, lack of incentives to segregate waste, limitation in disposal channels.
Urban India generates around 25000 MT of plastic waste every day. 43% of this consists of plastic packaging items which include MLP, single-use plastics such as plastic bags, disposable cups, cutlery etc. Owing to its lightweight, it gets carried away by wind easily and ends up in water bodies impacting marine life causing oceanic pollution. MLP waste is not an integral part of informal sector collection as there is no value attached to it compared to plastic bottles (PET), containers (HDPE).
Also because of its low weight, more MLP packages, pouches need to be collected on a per kg basis thus demanding more efforts from those involved in the collection such as ragpickers, kabadiwalas, and scrap dealers. (Example -An MLP pouch of a chips packet weighs around 3 grams requiring the ragpicker to collect around 333 pouches to make a kilogram whereas around 40-50 empty water bottles will make a kilogram of PET collection)
MLP is also a difficult material to source when it comes to EPR fulfilment and in turn, affects brands’ EPR targets. However, with several interventions across the value chain, MLP sourcing becomes viable not just from a cost perspective but also viable for the environment.
Consumers need to be educated on how the littered, uncollected MLP ends up in landfills and water bodies creating health hazards and ecological imbalances
Bulk generators like offices, SEZs, IT Parks, Facility managers need to create a collection, storage mechanism for MLP pouches
Waste pickers need to be made aware that MLP is a value generator for them and ask them to make it part of their plastic waste collection routine
A system of incentivization should be in place between collection agencies, informal sector (Rag pickers, Waste pickers)
EPR fees collected from brands should reach the informal sector where they are paid incentives for their collection efforts
Partnerships with ULBs to incentivize the rag pickers, waste collectors who bring in MLP wastes is one such arrangement
The baled material from DRCCs, MRFs can be dispatched to cement factories where it is used as an alternative fuel for the kilns
Other responsible processing channels include waste to energy plants, waste to fuel/pyrolysis plants and road contractors who use the MLP for plastic bitumen roads
Role of digital technology
Geotagging can be used to identify, map landfills, dumping sites where MLP wastes are concentrated
MLP wastes can be extracted from such locations by involving and incentivizing the informal sector
MIS systems, mobile apps will be useful in capturing the inward, outward material flow at the collection centres. This will help in capturing data of MLP collection and the effect to which it is managed efficiently.
These cross value chain interventions will create a win-win situation for all the stakeholders – Better income for the informal sector, faster sourcing for collection agencies, reduced litter on streets, reduced cleaning costs for the governments, clean environment, better surroundings for all of us. We all Win!