With the plastic menace extending from Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, all the way deep into the oceans, there has been a global effort to make an attempt to formulate the best ways to recycle and reuse plastics.
According to official data shared by companies that recycle and reuse plastics, though India’s per capita plastic consumption is growing steadily, it is heartening to learn that nearly 80 per cent of the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, commonly used to package mineral water or juice, are collected and recycled. India, in this case, has even beaten the world’s most advanced countries like the US or even the European countries.
With recycling being the buzz word for sustainability, many brands of footwear and garments are now beginning to use polyester yarns made out of recycled PET bottles. “The quality of yarn extracted from recycled PET bottles is equivalent to that of a virgin yarn manufactured from crude oil. The garments made of this yarn are as good as original polyester-makes,” said Makarand Kulkarni, chief marketing officer, Polygenta Technologies Limited, a subsidiary of Perpetual Global, a US-based company.
Based in Dhindori, about 50 km from Nashik, this company recycles two million PET bottles measuring one litre each, daily. This roughly translates to manufacturing 30 metric tonnes of polyester yarn on a daily basis.
On the idea of recycling PET bottles and manufacturing yarn, Kulkarni said, “India is a hub of textiles. Besides, there is an abundance of PET bottles that can be put to good use.” The company has about 80 aggregators, mainly in Gujarat and Maharashtra, that supply raw material (PET bottles) collected from shopping malls, trains, hotels and other sources.
While the used bottles (barring caps) are first cleansed and shredded to chips before being shipped, the rest of the yarn-making processes are completed at the Nashik-based plant that was set up four years ago. According to company officials, a major bulk of the yarn that is manufactured is exported while the rest is used by numerous garment and footwear brands within India. One of their major suppliers is Adidas that has partnered with the company for making polyester T-shirts and sportswear.
“The company aims at making all its products, be it accessories or footwear, from 100 per cent recycled plastics by 2024,” said Sharad Singla, brand marketing director, Adidas India.
The company is all set to manufacture shoes made from recycled plastics, which will mean that barring the sole, the rest will be obtained from reused plastics. Alongside sustainability, Polygenta’s efforts to reuse plastics in this manner also has been found to require 86 per cent less water during the processing phase, in comparison to polyester yarns obtained from crude oil. Also, it has been found that every tonne of PET recycling can cut 5.6 cubic metre landfill along with reduced emissions of carbon dioxide.
While it has been exactly a year since single-use plastics were banned in Maharashtra, Kulkarni finds that this move will further streamline the plastic bottle collection and recycling, which will add to sustainability efforts.
He said, “This step will ensure that manufactured bottles are collected, and this responsibility will be shared by the companies manufacturing PET bottles. This will also ensure that clean bottles reach recycling centres.”
The writer of this article was invited to visit Polygenta Technologies Ltd in Nashik, jointly organised by Adidas ahead of the ‘Run for the Oceans 2019’.