Thinking out of a box

Recycling of tetra paks gets underway in Mumbai

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Monday 31 October 2005

Thinking out of a box

NIDHI JAMWAL/ CSERecycling of tetrapak cartons has started in Mumbai following a joint venture between their manufacturer, Tetra Pak India Pvt Ltd (TPIL) the Daman Ganga Paper Mill (DGPM) and a non-governmental organisation, Stree Mukti Sanghatna (SMS). “A few months back I did not even know what a tetrapak is. But now I am not only collecting and selling tetrapaks, but also fighting with local kabadiwalas to ensure these packs reach our waste sheds rather than end up in the city’s dumping ground,” says SMS supervisor Shakuntala Kurkute. SMS has more than 2,000 women waste pickers of Mumbai as its members. The joint venture followed a TPIL project launched a few months back. “The project’s objective was to gain insight into the post-consumer waste collection process and a firsthand experience of the local hydra-pulping process (delaminating the paper, aluminium and polyethylene layers in the cartons to recover virgin paper),” says TPIL’s Satyen K Khashu. TPIL realised lack of recycling facilities meant nobody was interested in collecting tetrapaks, which ended up choking landfills. Aware of the harm this was causing to the environment, TPIL decided to act. “A three-month contract was signed within which five tonnes of tetrapaks had to be collected by SMS and sent to the paper mill in Vapi. A payment of Rs 2 per kilogramme of tetrapak was agreed upon between TPIL and us,” says SMS business coordinator Sunita Patil. But collecting tetrapaks was not easy. “We zeroed in on Air India and Indian Railways, with the former generating almost 100 kg tetrapaks daily. But we found these bulk producers have a tender system for selling their dry waste and there are 2-3 big contractors who bag these tenders,” says Patil. SMS then decided to approach kabadiwalas in Jari Mari area of Andheri, who get a large chunk of Air India’s waste. “Initially we were threatened and told off, as these kabadiwalas did not want to store tetrapaks, which are of no value. Then we roped in Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) officials and one kabadiwala agreed to sell us tetrapaks at Rs 2 per kg,” says Susheela Sabale, president of Parisar Bhagini Vikas Sangh, a sister concern of SMS consisting of members of self-help groups of women waste pickers. “We have formed a separate federation of WWPs to ensure their independent functioning. SMS has written to TPIL and the paper mill saying all future tetrapak recycling contracts should be signed directly with the Vikas Sangh,” says SMS president Jyoti Mhapsekar. Apart from kabadiwalas, SMS started collecting the cartons from the Mumbai Central station. SMS made use of 5 waste sorting sheds provided by the municipal corporation. Within a month, over five tonnes of cartons were collected and taken to the Daman Ganga. The mill can recycle 1,000 tonnes per month but due to lack of raw material, it is recycling only 300 tonnes. Ironically, almost the entire raw material is imported while Indian tetrapaks end up in landfills. “In India, there is no separate collection of tetrapaks and lack of transport facilities increase the cost. I hope in the coming 6 months local collection will go up to 60 tonnes per month,” says the mill’s managing director Tushar Shah. Special pulpers at the mill remove pulp from the polyethylene-coated aluminium (PEA) layers in tetrapaks. The pulp is used to make paper boards for packaging, whereas PEA is further recycled into granules, which can be used to manufacture plastic products like pipes. Hence, nothing goes waste! But the teething problems of the women waste pickers are still not over. “One kabadiwala has refused to give us tetrapaks unless we pay Rs 3 per kg. We also have to bribe the garbage truck drivers to give us dry waste,” laments Kurkute. Aware of the need for a better financial incentive to waste pickers, Daman Ganga plans to raise their payment to Rs 3-3.50 per kg. Mhapsekar is trying to get funds under the Centre’s Swaran Jayanti Shehari Rozgar Yojna to construct 7 more sheds and raise the monthly target to 20-25 tonnes. She is also trying for a formal system with Air India and Indian Railways to ensure WWPs get tetrapaks. This, she claims, will benefit everybody but only if bulk producers and the municipal corporation co-operate. Ôûá

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