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Case Study

Managing Urban Plastic Waste

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Recity Network & Alliance to End Plastic Waste

Warming is a global problem that needs coordinated, collective solutions. On current trends, it is expected that low and middle income countries will account for 66% of global carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, up from 44% in 1990. One of the largest among them, India has pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2070. With nearly 8,000 towns and cities in the country, two-thirds of them home to half a million to 1 million people, each of these cities generates 200-500 tonnes of waste per day. In this environment, plastic recycling has clear potential to lower carbon emissions.

Research has shown that recycling and remanufacturing plastic can save at least 30% of the carbon emissions that original processing and manufacturing would produce. It is important to increase the rate of waste recovery and recycling in many countries, especially for fossil products like plastic. Among the blend of strategic partnerships in plastic waste recovery and processing in India, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste bridges gaps through innovative funding mechanisms, while Recity shapes projects from the ground up to develop circular economies of plastic recovery and recycling.

Recity has developed a project, ParikraM, with an intersectional approach. In partnership with Alliance to End Plastic Waste, Recity is building a resilient, automated processing infrastructure for mixed municipal solid waste that promotes social inclusion, livelihood improvement, and economic resilience for waste-workers, while driving carbon reduction. By bridging a gap in sorting, which is a vital link between collecting and recycling plastic waste, Recity is constructing tech-enabled and compliant Material Recovery Facilities where plastic waste will be sorted, baled and channelled efficiently for recycling or other scientific end-of-life solutions. Customised for each city, Recity plans, designs, constructs and operates these facilities to convert ethically sourced plastic waste into quality material for further delivery to recyclers or other circular solutions.

See here for more details on Recity’s Material Recovery Facilities

A path breaking model for bridging the gap between mismanaged plastic waste and feedstock supply for mechanical or chemical recycling, Recity designed ParikraM to tackle the challenge of processing mixed municipal solid waste in cities with 0.5 to 1 million people that generate up to 500 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day, with the aim of recovering up to 50 tonnes of plastic waste per day. The municipal solid waste that will be brought into the facility shall be processed using the most suitable technology that will cost-effectively deliver a high resource recovery rate.

The recovery facilities will be equipped to segregate waste into several different factions that become feedstock for valorisation streams such as recycling, alternate fuel recovery, and pyrolysis oil. These facilities combat warming in the following ways:

  1. Plastic waste management – An organised, centralised system for collecting, sorting and processing solid mixed waste which will divert significant amounts of plastic waste from landfills, and help prevent plastics from harming natural ecosystems such as rivers and oceans.
  2. Recycling and resource recovery – Sorting and segregating different types of plastic waste to allow for efficient recycling, which will conserve natural resources and reduce the carbon footprint by creating plastic feedstock for recycling.
  3. Energy recovery – Facilitating energy recovery from non-recyclable plastic waste, reducing the reliance on fossil fuels by replacing traditional sources of energy.
  4. Microplastics mitigation – Mitigating the spread of microplastics by implementing advanced filtering and separation technologies to capture and remove microplastics from wastewater, preventing their release into the ecosystem.

Recity’s Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) will promote the circularity of over 120,000 tonnes of hard-to-recycle plastics. While it is difficult to quantify the carbon emissions prevented due to the complexity of mixed plastic waste, research shows that recycling and remanufacturing plastic lowers emissions by 30% over plastic manufactured anew.

Recity also aims to minimise the impact of MRF operations on the environment by ensuring carbon negative operations, and incorporates several climate-positive features into its MRFs for long term sustainability, such as:

  • Low carbon buildings
  • Water efficient buildings
  • Solar panel integration
  • Indian Green Building Council norms compliant
  • 20% lower energy use

Over 300 stakeholders will be given formal employment at these facilities, with inclusive occupational benefits including welfare schemes, employee benefits including EPF and ESIC, bank account access, medical insurance and medical camps, and more, for improved and dignified livelihoods.

An automated waste supply chain with end-to-end traceability will further ensure that all material processed at these facilities can be tracked, verified, and adheres to compliances and regulations. The data that will be collected further enables data-backed decision-making. The plastics will be ethically sourced and will meet social and environmental compliances. No child or forced labour shall be employed at these facilities. Stakeholders including waste-workers, pickers and scrap dealers will be paid higher than market wages.

As waste management has long been a loss-making service for Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), the ParikraM model overcomes this by focusing on waste recovery to maximise revenue. The revenue that will be generated from these MRFs will be directed to the ULBs for public use. The business model estimates to generate USD 100,000 per month at full capacity.

Designed as a cost-effective plug and play model, ParikraM maximises waste recovery and enables a circular economy while generating revenue, a favourable option for ULBs looking for efficient waste management strategies with low overheads. This model supports the Government of India under the Swachh Bharat Mission implementation which requires cities to focus on waste segregation at source & waste processing. Reducing dependence on landfills, ParikraM provides more opportunities to implement the model in other cities.

Given its success in addressing the problems of mixed municipal solid waste and mismanaged plastic waste in cities in India, there is potential for replicating the ParikraM model worldwide. It can be customised to suit the unique needs and characteristics of different cities – those beginning to segregate their waste can rapidly reduce their dependence on landfills, further enabling them to improve waste segregation at source, accelerating the formation of a closed plastics economy.

Recity conducts a baseline study, feasibility study, and waste characterisation study in every city it enters, and this data becomes the driving factor for assessing replicability. Of the data collected, the metrics of cities per tonne and plastic recovered are crucial factors in assessing the potential for replication. With the right implementation strategies and tailored adaptation, Recity believes the model set by ParikraM can revolutionise waste management practices worldwide, by promoting sustainable practices and driving a climate-safe circular economy.

The model provides solutions for multiple ecosystem players:

  1. Funders looking to conserve ocean, river and forest biodiversity – ParikraM enables an efficient and automated waste processing infrastructure for cities.
  2. Urban local bodies looking to segregate waste – ParikraM enables a sustainable and cost-effective model of waste management.
  3. Chemical and mechanical recyclers – ParikraM enables consistent feedstock for recycling.

Read the report here

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

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