We are living at a time when plastic pollution is a major reason to worry for its harmful impact on the environment, marine life and humans. India’s major mineral water manufacturer Bisleri, in their attempt to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the landfill has started an awareness campaign titled ‘Bottles for Change’.
Mr Angelo George, Chief Executive Officer, Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd in an exclusive interaction with The CSR Journal opened up about their ‘Bottles for Change’ initiative and its role in combating the pressing issue of plastic pollution across India. Following are the excerpts from the conversation.
What is Bisleri’s ‘Bottles for Change’ initiative all about?
At Bisleri International, we are committed to ensuring zero plastic to landfill. Our initiative, ‘Bottles for Change,’ aims to create awareness among people to treat used plastic as a valuable resource by segregating and responsibly disposing of, thus preventing it from entering landfills. The program educates people to clean and segregate all kinds of plastic, which is then sold to local kabadiwalas, who further sell it to the recyclers. The entire chain generates more value as used plastic is converted into usable products such as fabric, handbags, window blinds and public benches. Through the initiative, we strive to bring behavioural change by inculcating best practices among people to build a cleaner environment.
What was the inspiration to start this kind of a project?
Bisleri International has been propagating the idea of recycling used plastic since the late 1990s and has imported a plastic recycling machine from Japan. As an organisation, we have been recycling our PET bottles and are one of the first FMCG companies to become plastic-neutral. We are proud to say that we collect and recycle more plastic than we put in the market.
The inspiration to launch ‘Bottles For Change’ was to encourage citizens to contribute towards building a plastic circular economy. We aim to ensure that all kinds of used clean plastic are channelised for recycling, which will help preserve our environment.
It is irresponsible behaviour of people in disposing of used plastic that allows it to get into the dump yards. Also, research shows that over 80% of littering is intentional and performed by humans. Hence, appropriate handling, recycling and upcycling of used plastic are an absolute necessity. Moreover, the environmental benefits of upcycling are massive, as it takes 88% less energy than producing new plastic from raw materials. It also helps in lowering the consumption of fossil fuels. Therefore, a small change in habit will create a valuable resource out of used plastic and simultaneously help improve the environment for future generations.
Why is the segregation of PET bottles important from other plastic materials?
As per industry and global reports, PET is the most preferred packaging in bottled water. It is eco-friendly and can be recycled into new products, lowering manufacturing costs.
PET is 100% recyclable, and hence it is critical to separate it from other plastics. Besides, it generates income for 4.5Mn ragpickers who collect recyclable plastic, as more the 90% of PET in India is recycled into higher-value products. The cleaning, segregation of plastic at the source and giving it directly for recycling help build a circular economy. These PET bottles can be woven with natural or synthetic fibres to produce apparel, shoes and other high-value items. It is also used to upcycle hard-bound industry products such as benches, paver blocks, which reduce the stress on natural resources.
Which parts of India is the project operational in? How much has been achieved under the ‘Bottles for Change’ project till date?
Bottles For Change programme is currently operational in 9 corporations in 7 cities, including Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Vasai-Virar, Panvel, Delhi, Noida, Ghaziabad and Chennai, amongst others. We are in the process of further expanding our footprint to other metro cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune.
Under the aegis of this program, we have over 2700 housing societies, 600 educational institutions, 500 corporates, 500 hotels and restaurants registered for disposing of used plastic. The model has helped bring behavioural change amongst 600,000 citizens through our awareness programme.
Besides, we have collected and recycled over 6,500 tons of plastic and have partnered with NGOs such as Parisar Bhagini Vikas Sanstha, Parisar Sakhi Vikas Sangh, Sampurna Earth, Akaar, Save the Earth Foundation, Indian Pollution Control Association (IPCA) and Paperman Foundation. We have also collaborated with National Service Scheme (NSS) network at schools and colleges to educate students who have become ambassadors of the Bottles for Change mission to recycle used plastic within their communities.
How can Indian citizens donate the plastic waste generated at their homes for the ‘Bottles for Change’ project?
Under Bottles for Change, we channelise all kinds of used clean plastic for recycling. To reach the community at large, we have introduced an android-friendly mobile app (application) for individuals and organisations to register in the mission of zero plastic to landfill. The app provides a seamless experience to navigate and approach a nearby plastic agent to give the segregated plastic to the right channel. The plastic agent picks a substantial amount of plastic within 15 days to a month, depending on the quantity of plastic collected. This segregated plastic, in turn, is sold to the recyclers, thus, preventing used plastic from entering landfills.