Looking Beyond The Floating Peril !

Looking Beyond The Floating Peril !

By Invite – Prasad Jakkaraju, General Manager – Sustainability, Godrej Industries & Associated Companies

The efficient management of waste can substantially reduce the environmental hazards says Prasad Jakkaraju, General Manager – Sustainability, Godrej Industries & Associated Companies (GILAC), ahead of World Environment Day 2018.

Covering a gigantic surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers, GPGP is an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France. The wonderful part is that this huge surface area doesn’t have a single human presence and further interestingly doesn’t fall in the extreme weather zones such as freezing chill or extreme heat. Before you intend to put on your trekking shoes and head towards this intriguing area, let me forewarn you that the best and interesting part reaches its climax here.

GPGP isn’t any normal area or nation, it is the world’s largest gigantic floating patch of ocean trash located halfway between Hawaii and California. First discovered in the early 1990s, the GPGP or better known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t merely a solid mass of plastic but further includes about 1.8 trillion waste pieces and weighs 88,000 tonnes – the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets.

In spite of everyone knowing the dangers associated with unscientific disposal of plastic, it is unfortunately estimated that 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year. The situation is only going to get aggravated because people and governments are reluctant to invest in sustainable alternatives or take measures towards scientific disposal of such waste.

Prasad Jakkaraju, GM, Sustainability, Godrej Industries & Associated Companies

Looking nearer to home, it would be pertinent to point out that India generates more than 100,000 metric tonnes of solid waste and around 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste each day. Large metropolises such as Delhi and Mumbai together generate more than 17,300 metric tonnes of waste daily according to the central government estimates. Inefficient and insufficient infrastructure and failure to address the issue from a systemic perspective has resulted in waste management becoming a critical problem nationwide.

Through the use of right processes and technology, a good chunk of the waste can be used to generate value. Organic waste can be composted to create manure while recyclable waste such as plastic and beverage cans can be reused as raw materials. The efficient management of waste can substantially reduce the environmental hazards posed by solid waste.

In an extremely positive development, however, the union cabinet recently approved the National Policy on Biofuels. In addition to the current practice of only mixing ethanol produced from sugarcane in petrol, it will additionally permit doping of ethanol produced from damaged food grains, rotten potatoes, corn and sugar beet with petrol. This can lead to production of Second Generation (2G) ethanol from municipal solid waste and Third Generation (3G) fuels like bio-CNG. Other than reduction of carbon emissions by three million tonnes, the mixing of one crore litre of bio-ethanol in petrol saves Rs 28 crore of precious foreign exchange spent on oil imports.

Corporates show the way

While private individuals, civic bodies and nonprofits are engaged in finding efficient ways to manage waste, corporates have also taken the lead in reducing industrial or manufacturing waste and offsetting the damage to the extent possible.

The Waste to Wealth programme launched by Pepsico India in 2004 across four municipalities in Tamil Nadu, two municipalities in Telangana and one municipal corporation in Haryana, demonstrates an economically viable, environmentally feasible and socially acceptable model for urban solid waste management. Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages’ plastic waste recycling project in Hyderabad which converts about five tonnes of plastic into useful consumer products, is another notable initiative.

An interesting initiative could be GILAC’s (Godrej Industries and Associated Companies) soon to be commissioned integrated waste management facility for the Kalyan-Dombivili Municipal Corporation in Thane district of Maharashtra. Other than creating 2000 jobs, the facility will convert wet waste into bio-CNG for use as fuel and transform waste plastic into oil.

A multi-party pronged approach is critical to rooting out waste. For example Godrej Industries in partnership with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, segregated waste collection centres have been set up across the city. The collected dry waste, mainly plastic, is sent to Swacch centres where rag-pickers have been engaged to separate recyclable and non-recyclable waste. The recyclable waste is sent to recyclers for the manufacture of plastic granules while the non-recyclable plastic is processed to generate pyrolysis oil which is used in industrial applications. The facility, which can handle 18000 MT of dry waste annually, recycles approximately 1200 MT of plastics annually.

World Environment Day is the UN’s most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment – but let us ensure our active participation to make it successful. As we observe World Environment Day, let us ponder about this year’s theme – ‘beating plastic pollution’. Until a solution is found to mitigate the mounting quantum of waste, especially plastic garbage, we will have to endure GPGP increasing both in size and becoming a larger threat to future generations.