India has been referred to as the world’s trash can. Harsh for certain, but if you type in the words ‘India’ and ‘Trash,’ plenty of disturbing Google images of kids playing in trash will pop up. And unlike some fake images that try to depict plastic waste (such as some of those viral fish ones), these photos are real.
According to The Times of India, it is estimated that 60 Indian cities generate plastic waste at rates of 15,342 tons per day while more than 6,000 tons remain uncollected.
The Delhi government is discussing a bag ban, however, plastic bags were first outlawed in January 2009, just with very little enforcement, according to another Times of India report.
Beyond enacting bans, I came across a start-up that is applying another tactic to help solve the country’s trash problem.
The plastic recycling start-up has raised $800,000 to scale a business that will mitigate the inefficiencies in India’s recycling value chain. According to Banyan Nation, India does have high rates of plastic recycling (although there are conflicting reports on what is defined as ‘high’ – I saw figures pegging India’s recycling rates as high as 60% or as low as 15%). Regardless of the true rates, Banyan Nation says the recycled plastic that is produced in the country is often of low quality and can be detrimental to the environment, as well as the workers who recycle these plastics.
“The informal nature of the recycling value chain makes it almost impossible for Indian brands to use recycled plastic for their product and packaging needs,” said Mani Vajipey, founder and CEO of Banyan. “Raj and I decided to give up our jobs in the U.S. and return home to Hyderabad to create a business that changes the way India recycles plastics. Our goal is to become a trustworthy and responsible recycling partner which offers recycled plastic at consistent quality, volume and prices through technology innovations, scientific rigor and ethical business practices.”
Banyan looks to give brands a viable alternative to virgin plastic for their new product and packaging needs. Banyan manages a recycling operation that sources waste materials from aggregators; sorts and grades the plastic waste; and manages a treatment and recycling process that the company says produces “higher-quality plastic pellets with a longer life span than pellets produced by the majority of recycling companies in the country.”