Recycling Significance to Waste Management – A Call for Rethinking of ‘Waste’

By Sreejaya Chatterjee

Photo: Nariman Mesharrafa

A scientific invention can change the world’s perspective and if the invention raises the quality of life, the more encouraging it is. Our cities are now grappling with the problems of high volumes of waste, the costs involved, the disposal technologies and methodologies, and the impact of wastes on the local and global environment. At the same time, there is also a solution to every problem. Prof Shantanu Bhowmick, Head of Research and Projects and also a professor of Aerospace Engineering, Amrita School of Engineering has taken up this initiative towards sustainable development by recycling different daily waste into utility products. These wastes range from plastic bags, plastic bottles, tetra packs to thermocols and multi layered plastics.

Professor Bhowmick recalls one of his travel days in 2018, “I was travelling from Coimbatore to Rameswaram, when my eyes caught the visuals of dumps of plastic wastes all through the entire stretch of the highway of 400kms. This pathetic sight made me feel low, but at the same time i thought of solutions to these waste problems, ideas of recycling plastic wastes into plastic composite products.

Prof Santanu Bhowmick

Owing to the current population of India, India produces 26,000 tons of plastic wastes everyday. This is a huge quantum of wastes being produced daily. Thus the scientist started to work effectively and he was successful in turning plastic bottles and wastes into pavement tiles, which remain durable till 40 to 50 years and could take 15 tons of compressive loads. The pavement tiles can also be produced from the older tiles whose longevity is nearing end. Ridge tiles and roof tiles are other products which can be made out of plastic bottles and other plastic wastes. The cost of these pavement and roof tiles are even lower than the conventional mud, concrete, aluminum and tin tiles.

Tetra packs of beverages and drinks are also successfully converted into synthetic fibre and with this synthetic fibre beautiful sofa cushions, blankets and pillows can be carved out. Thermocols used in packaging purposes are also hazardous to the environment as it chokes the drains and pollutes the water bodies. There is no denial that thermocols are necessary for packaging products and once the purpose is served, they are dumped outside hence polluting the environment. Prof Bhowmick has successfully recycled thermocols into automotive bumpers. His another work area has been recycling multi layer plastics such as packets of chips, biscuit packets etc.

Through adequate technology he has transferred these multi layer plastics into table tops. He has identified two benefits behind this transformation. Firstly, the multi layer plastics will be recycled completely and secondly, this will minimize deforestation as furnitures are carved out of woods.

This will encourage ‘Green technology’ by minimising deforestation. Another milestone invention is the products made out of epoxy carbon fiber. Generally helicopter’s and aircraft’s infrastructure is made out of epoxy carbon fiber. Once this infrastructure gets damaged, this cannot be reused and even it cannot be destroyed by fire as the toxic smoke of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide will pollute the air and environment.  Professor Bhowmick through his extensive experimentation for over 1.5 years, has been successful in recycling the epoxy carbon fiber into different useful products. Through all these efforts he wishes to make India clean and green.

There are few companies started by his students who are into recycling plastic wastes. Prof Bhowmick’s students have followed his footsteps and held his hands in this initiative of making India clean and green. He also imparts knowledge of recycling to few manufacturers who manufactures plastics and thermocols. Managing wastes is a significant area of study and Professor Bhowmick thinks that recycling plants and waste management plants will be helpful both in terms of economy and employment in the near future by using this technology. Organized awareness and knowledge of the hazards can lead to improvement catering to health and environment. It is the hightime to see the need for a complete rethinking of ‘waste’. A rethinking, that calls for WASTE to become WEALTH; REFUSE to become RESOURCE; TRASH to become CASH.

Written by Sreejaya Chatterjee, Columnist and Media Academician.