Beyond Swachh Bharat: India’s changing attitudes towards plastic

Beyond Swachh Bharat: India’s changing attitudes towards plastic

On India’s Independence Day, the India2022 coalition is aiming to change the way the country disposes plastics. One of the questions the coalition wants to help answer is, how do we make segregation an integral part of waste disposal? With this in mind, Xynteo will launch a pilot project called “Plastic Fantastic,” in Bandra, Mumbai on behalf of the India2022 coalition.

India2022 is a purpose-driven global coalition, committed to creating a new model of growth by 2022. The Aditya Birla Group, Hindustan Unilever, Shell, TechnipFMC, General Electric, Cyient, and Tata Trusts are the founding partners of the India2022 coalition. Currently, the partners are working to develop projects across a number of thematic areas including waste-to-value, the energy transition, diagnostic healthcare and sustainable mining.

Right before plastic is recycled into a new product, the waste is transformed into these plastic pellets.
Photo: Apurva Mathur, Xynteo

On 23 June this year, Mumbai’s municipal corporation enforced a ban on single-use plastic in the city. Even when landing in Mumbai, passengers are now warned by airlines against bringing single use plastic items into the city. Since the ban, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has collected over 120 metric tonnes of plastic waste with the support of telephone helplines and new designated plastic bins, news reports state. However, banning plastic is only the first step towards curbing plastic pollution. While plastic is being collected across the city, recycling it is still an infrastructure challenge for civic bodies.

Now is the time to focus on improving the way plastic is collected, segregated and recycled. Changing how people dispose their waste is an important first step in making India more conscious about plastic waste. Apurva Mathur, insights advisor, Xynteo says, “People do not understand the difference between wet and dry waste. In India many believe it is the government’s responsibility to segregate waste. The sense of personal responsibility is lacking.” The India2022 coalition is striving to change this attitude towards waste segregation, with a particular focus on plastic waste.

The intention is to empower students and make them key stakeholders in the fight against plastic pollution. Schools will be the focus of the Plastic Fantastic programme teaching students and communities about different plastics, the need to segregate plastic, and the value of plastic waste. This will be achieved with the help of a mobile recycling workshop that will travel to schools and housing societies. Sukriti Gupta, co-founder, Academy for Earth Sustainability is designing the curriculum for the pilot. She comments, “The curriculum is going to be action-oriented. Students will express themselves creatively, and through teamwork; learning to make an impact in their communities.”

The pilot will also utilise digital tracking to understand segregation behaviour among participants and measure the impact of the programme. “We are looking to improve knowledge and attitudes towards plastic, resulting in a change in consumer behaviour. For us this pilot is designed to improve knowledge and transform behaviour significantly,” says Xynteo’s Waste & Sanitation impact track leader Zainab Kakal.

Proper segregation of plastic waste will ensure that recyclers have access to better quality feedstock which can be efficiently recycled Creating better access to plastic waste will in turn encourage greater levels of plastic recycling. This is where the opportunity lies, creating a world where plastic is not just waste but valuable raw material. A world where the shampoo sachet you throw away can be used again to create completely new packaging.

Swachh Bharat or Clean India is a Government of India-led movement launched in 2014.

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