DID you know that the jersey of the Indian cricket team is made out of recycled plastic ? The fabric, used for making jersey for the men in blue, is just one example of when plastic bottles, or more precisely Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles, were crushed and processed to make numerous products including T-shirts, scarves, denims and even pillows. Polymer scientists at the city-based National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), who have taken baby steps towards recycling PET bottles, believe that fabric created in this fashion is turning into a booming industry.
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In a first-of-its-kind study undertaken by NCL in March last year, it was estimated that the industry has the potential to generate Rs 3,486 crore annually by employing about 16,000 people. “With this idea of recycling PET bottles, India has entered a global league…,” said Ashwini Kumar Nangia, director of NCL.
About 1,500 kilotonnes of PET were produced in India during 2015-2016, and 982 kilotonnes in 2014-15, indicating that ample plastic resources are available to be recycled within the country. Apart from this, India also imports PET from countries such as China and Taiwan. Plastic waste has become a problem area for those involved in solid waste management and town planning. PET recycling, after appropriate separation and segregation, may provide a solution, given the quantum of plastic waste generated in the country.
As part of recycling, PET bottles are made to go through a series of processes including sorting, selection and segregation for coloured bottles, aluminium caps, rings and PVC material. “This PET material is then washed and chemically treated, giving the desired kind of fabric,” said Magesh Nandagopal, a member of one of the NCL teams working on PET recycling projects. According to Ashish Lele, head of the polymer science and engineering group at NCL, the recycling industry, with a focus on PET, is growing fast and shaping into a parallel industry. “Here, about 70 per cent of PET plastic is recycled and given back to the chain system,” said Lele.
The disposed PET bottles are first picked up by rag pickers, then segregated and sorted by waste traders, before they finally reach recyclers. It is interesting to note that the cost of these PET bottles increases at every stage and the base price, which starts at Rs 15/kg, can go up to Rs 150 by the time the recycler purchases it, making it a profitable business. Website for PET recycling launched
A dedicated website to provide information on activities about PET bottles — http://www.petrecycling.in — was launched by NCL director Ashwini Kumar Nangia on Thursday. Vijay Habbu, senior vice-president at Reliance Industries Ltd, and P C Joshi from the PET Packaging Association for Clean Environment were present at the event.