Efficient plastic waste hadling is the real need

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With 45+ years of Industrial experience, Subba Bangera is a highly-respected thought leader in the plastics manufacturing industry. His experience spreads across research, application development, marketing, designing and machine building and setting up industries. In his current role as a Chairman of Active Biz Solutions Pvt Ltd, Bangera is actively supporting innovative ideas and providing mentorship to aspiring entrepreneurs. He is also an advisor to Electropneumatics & Hydraulics Pvt. Ltd, Bana Group, SG Group and a few other companies. He is part of the CGSC as its Governing Council member and is a Director of the Plastics Machinery Manufacturers’ Association of India (PMMAI), the apex body for the plastics equipment manufacturing business in the country. He is also the Vice Chairman of Steer Engineering Pvt Ltd. Shweta Nanda of Machine Tools World recently got an opportunity for an exclusive chat with Mr. Bangera. In a stimulating conversation, he talks at length about the idea behind Active Biz Solutions, importance of plastic waste management and interesting application areas of plastic waste. Excerpts:

Q. Please take us through the journey of Active Biz Solutions. How was it conceptualized and how far it has come?

Active Biz Solutions was founded in 2014 to help young innovative minds on their entrepreneurial journey. The underlining idea was to share my accumulated experience, knowledge and lessons learn with budding entrepreneurs, as a way of giving back to the society.

We, at Active Biz Solutions, basically provide mentorship on a need basis and show the right direction and path to aspiring entrepreneurs. We listen and analyze their distress points and guide them on how they can take a systematic approach to be globally competitive. For instance, we assist them in a layout for lean manufacturing and help them take a digital journey. While visiting several universities for lectures, I observed that students have a lot of interesting ideas but lacked direction as to how to execute those ideas and kick-start their journey. One university wanted me to give a talk around start-up ideas that work but I noticed that while students had a lot of ideas on the development side, they were completely clueless on the leadership side. The reason being that universities are training students to be engineers, not to be entrepreneurs. So, they have little or no awareness on entrepreneurship-related challenges, such as how to manage stakeholders, suppliers, customers, etc., as these things are not taught or discussed. This is where Active Biz Solutions comes into the picture and helps them bring their innovative ideas to life.

Q. Tell us about some innovative business ideas thats Active Biz Solutionis supporting.

Given my experience in the plastic industry, we are constantly supporting ideas related to plastic waste management and plastic recycling—showing them the direction to take their venture ahead.
We are also avidly mentoring and supporting business ideas that help the environment. One such idea which we have supported is that of an app-based system that accurately tracks environmental metrics, such as air quality, water quality, etc., to help highlight the gravity of the problem and take corrective actions. The founder of the app, a young boy, although had many ideas with respect to the product and its functionalities, was not sure of how to take his idea ahead. We helped him move forward and develop the prototype.

‘Efficient plastic waste collection and recycling is the need of the hour’

Q. Please highlight the importance of plastics industry for economic development.

Plastic industry is instrumental to the economic development of India. Whether it is agriculture, construction, housing, automobile or medial industry, plastic is the key element everywhere. The progress and development of all these industries is dependent on plastic. Food & Beverage consume almost 40% of plastic as packaging and storage material. This is followed by automobile, white goods, electrical appliances, agricultural industry, construction industry, and toys for children, medical kits, medicine containers, educational instruments, recreation instruments and so on. Plastic industry is also one of the highest employment generators in the country with the maximum number of start-ups. Plastic is an easy start-up base. There are immense opportunities in plastic industry and people with less funds can also build a start-up and grow.

Q. As you are a highly respected thought leader in the Indian plastics industry, comment on the negative image of plastic.

The negative image of plastic is due to sheer lack of awareness. When used as a packaging, plastic acts as a defense, shielding us from virus or bacteria attacks. Today, we have access to safe drinking water, tamperproof medicines and food with proper shelf life all due to plastic packaging. The problem is not with the plastic, problem is with the way plastic is being handled. The common practice is to eat or drink and throw packaging films, wrappers on the roadside. The need is to bring awareness in public as to how it is important to dispose of plastic in a proper manner. They should be sensitized on how disposing plastic in the water stream or on roadsides can negatively impact the environment.

Secondly, urban local bodies should take concrete steps towards facilitating proper waste disposal. For instance, garbage bins should be installed at a maximum of 100 metres. When we have a right place, right size and right type to dispose garbage, then only we can instil the right culture in the general public. The government needs to take concrete measures in this direction, such as involving not only urban local bodies but also panchayats to make provisions for putting the waste at the right place. Law should be imposed to prevent littering. Currently, the waste collection centers in place are not in line with population density. We need to have strong data points and analysis based on which corrective actions can be taken.

Q. In your view, what steps need to be taken to manage the plastic waste efficiently?

The need is to bring awareness in the people regarding how plastic should be disposed separately from solid waste. For this, everyone right from educational institutions to government needs to work in tandem. Secondly, strict laws should be made around littering of plastic packaging. Finally, when the people are made aware of the actions, then the penalty should be levied in cases of non-compliance.

In many seminars which I addressed, I tell people to take 4R oath on plastic waste management, which says recycling industry should target 20 million ton by 2022; end user should reduce his plastic dependency by 30% in the next two years; consumers should refuse use of unnecessary plastic by 50%; and reuse your plastic packaging material multiple times. Many interesting examples of plastic waste recycling are coming to the fore. We at PMMAI are doing our bit by highlighting, as well as supporting interesting plastic waste applications. Per capita consumption of Plastic in India is too low compared to USA, Europe and China. Today, when these countries too have slowly figured out how to manage this huge waste, we in India, can definitely do it with systematic planning. I believe by 2022, India will have a very well-defined system to manage the plastic waste.

Q. What are some application areas of plastic waste?

The application for plastic waste are many and it can be used to make different products, both for engineering and non-engineering applications. Plastic waste can be used for road building and in cement industry. It can prove instrumental in fulfilling Housing for All by 2022 Scheme, as it can be applied in building modular homes. Plastic waste can also be used for energy generation.

In INDIAPLAST 2019 Exhibition, organized by PMMAI, concluded on 4th March 2019, we came across several interesting examples of plastic recycling. For instance, Deshmukh Research Institute has made bricks from plastic waste which is projected to be used for Army bunkers as it has ability to absorb the power of high intensity gun firing. This application can process 50 kg of mixed plastic waste to tiles, bricks, paver blocks and mile stones. We, at PMMAI, are supporting this initiative to national level in a big way. Another company Gore Plastics and Carboys, is converting plastic waste to diesel which can used as fuel for vehicles or for energy generation. The company has successfully installed two 5 ton capacity plants in Southern India. This is useful in medium cities where collection of waste is higher. Worst of plastic waste mixed with even Tetra Pak cartons can be converted into useful fuel for tractors and energy generation.

Q. Tell us about the current landscape of Indian plastic industry and the way forward.

Indian plastic industry is fragmented with the presence of several small-, medium- and large-scale manufacturers. The outlook for the industry is positive with growing consumption. As per reports, per capita consumption of plastic in India is approximately 12 Kg, which is slated to go up to 20 kg/person in the year 2020. To aid the growth of the industry, Brand India should be promoted more. PMMAI is completely committed towards the growth of plastic industry and promoting recycling industry. We are working continuously for improving process standardization and cost competitiveness.