Lip service to recycling comes from every corner of the industry spectrum— be it plastic, electronic, manufacturing or packaging. But the situation on the ground in India tells you another story with the country generating 62 million tonnes of waste each year. Of this around 43 million tonnes is collected and only 12 million tonnes is treated. A shocking 31 million tonnes is dumped in landfills, telling us the harsh truth.

Though the government has formulated policies to “transition the country from a linear to a circular economy” and notified rules in the waste management of plastics, e-waste, metals, construction and demolition, we are simply not moving fast enough in deploying our waste in a manner that it can become a resource. So, what can be done in the coming year to expedite the process and save our landfills from materials that could create both cash and jobs.

Businessline asked a few industry experts in different streams of waste to recommend the best way forward. Let’s see what they say:

Ajay Mishra, Founder of Biocrux India, one of the earliest movers who developed the Reverse Vending Machine to recycle used plastic bottles at source, talks about the two aspects of recycling waste—convenience and economy. He says we need to see waste as raw material that feeds a recycling plant, and to enhance recycling segregated waste needs to be sent to a plant. Hence, source segregation is of utmost importance across states. “According to recent news India lifted the import ban on recycled raw material due to shortages. This is a huge set back. While you have mountains of waste lying, we are allowing import of processed wastes,” he rues.

Mishra points out that economy of scale and viability is a key challenge in recycling. To bring the cost of recycled raw material closer to virgin material the supply chain must be improved as this contributes between 70 to 80 per cent of the total cost.

One of the largest battery and e-waste recyclers, Attero Recycling bets on science and technology to take recycling forward. Having developed 34 global patents, co-founder and CEO Nitin Gupta emphasises the need for incentivising innovations. He feels that two things will make the difference —the draft policy for a circular economy in the electronics and electrical sector becoming a law, and the 2022 e-waste policy, to be operational by April 2023, in which the EPR regulations were expanded to 300 products.

Ravi Neeladri, CEO, Cerebra Green also dwells on the upcoming e-waste rules. He is specifically happy about how they will impact refurbishing of products. “Regeneration rather than just recycling helps create a more sustainable environment. By refurbishing, the end of life of a device can be extended, thus eliminating the need to mine metals and other resources for manufacturing new devices,” he says.

Moreover, the new rules require every refurbished electronic device to meet standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

Targets and stringent laws are urgently needed for industrial waste recycling as well. Annanya Agarwal, Co-founder, Runaya Refining feels that the government and decision-makers need to ensure that industries understand recycling and its resulting benefits. He says technology intervention in turning waste into wealth has been the game changer in recycling.

For Jeevaraj Pillai, Joint President (Flexible Packaging Business and New Product Development), UFlex Limited mechanisation is the key, including AI-enabled sorting of waste. That is what will give scale and maximise recycling. But for this a policy to encourage investments has to be put in place — a thought echoed by all the others.