Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has made the citizens of India conscious about careless disposal of plastic waste. Each section of the society is slowly but surely being trained about the importance of segregation of waste and recycling plastic waste. The citizens segregate all kinds of packaged plastic waste in one bin and feel accomplished over successfully fulfilling their responsibility. The popular assumption is, all of this plastic waste will be recycled – which is far from the truth.
MLPs or multi-layer packing materials are made up of one or more layers of plastics which enclose a thin layer of aluminium. Commonly used in the packaging of chips, biscuits, toffee wrappers, etc, these are non-recyclable. Because of this, it has low or no monetary value making it undesirable for rag-pickers to remove them from dumping grounds.
To address this problem, Rishi Aggarwal, a Mumbai based environmentalist and waste management expert, came up with the idea of Safai Bank of India in 2018.
Safai Bank works as an internet banking portal that collects MLP waste. It ties up with schools/colleges and trains the students to clean and collect the MLP wrappers.
How does the Safai Bank work?
Safai Bank is a website, where one can register as a branch/city coordinator or an account holder. An account holder refers to students/schools/colleges, who can log in and enter the number of wrappers they have collected. The system allows them to keep a real-time check on the MLP collected and the impact created. Schools can sign up all their classes for participation. Each division/section is assigned a monitor who is responsible for the MLP collection of that class. Following a standard operating procedure, students are taught to wrap up MLP in less than 15 minutes, which they collect during the week.
Every Friday, students bring their waste collection and give it to the class monitor to keep in the larger carton, who maintains the account of each student’s collection. The branch coordinator and manager add the waste collected from all the sections and classes of the school. When this number reaches 10,000, the Safai Bank of India sends a vehicle for collection and co-processing. It is then to the cement industry where it is burnt in kilns for co-processing and used in construction.
The MLP has a high calorific value. Therefore, it acts as a substitute for coal during co-processing in a small way. When MLPs are burnt above 1,000 degrees in cement kilns, harmful emissions like dioxins are not released. On the other hand, if it is mixed with other types of waste and is burnt, the temperature is much lower and produces dioxins. Dioxins not only pollute the environment but also cause adverse health effects, including hormonal imbalance, infertility, and cancer.
Safai Bank of India has been able to garner the support of more than 180 schools. It has collected and prevented more than 22 lakh multi-layered plastic packets/sachets with the help of 50,000 students. In addition to this, JSW Foundation, Nepra Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, RUR Greenlife and Greenline have collaborated with the initiative in various ways to show solidarity with the cause and the initiative.
However, no support has been observed by the FMCG players or the government as yet. This has not allowed it to create a bigger impact in many ways.