The Indian government has made a pledge to ban single-use plastics by 2020. A prudent step to curb plastic pollution considering global plastic production is rising rapidly. According to a UN report, by 2030 the world may produce 619 million tonnes of plastic every year.
Every year the world uses 500 billion plastic bags and India generates about 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste per day. The country consumed 16.5 million tonnes of plastic in 2017-2018, said a report by Plastic India Foundation. A report by FICCI noted that around 43 percent of manufactured plastics in India are used for packaging and most are of single-use.
The reality is, plastic has become our lifestyle, it's a habit now. It's cheap to manufacture, is lightweight, durable, has multiple uses and Indians consume 11 kg per capita per annum.
Birth of Shayna Ecounified
For Paras Saluja, this harsh reality was a cause of concern. It made him pause and reflect. He decided to move away from his family-run pharmaceutical business and work towards a solution. "Actually the idea clicked in Hanoi. Vietnam is famous for its street food but the streets are full of plastic waste by the evening. This got me thinking," says Paras.
Paras resolved to reduce plastic pollution but being a commerce graduate he had no knowledge of polymers and chemicals. In his quest to make sustainable products out of plastic waste, he researched extensively, read reports, exchanged ideas with existing players in the plastic waste management business and finally collaborated with the scientists at National Physical Laboratory (NPL).
Scientist SK Dhawan and his team were working on something new, tiles made from plastic waste. "I thought of collaborating with NPL and that's how everything started," says Paras. He finally took the technology transfer from NPL exclusively for the northern region.
Paras along with his friend Sandeep Nagpal co-founded Shayna Ecounified India in May 2018 with an initial investment of Rs 80 lakh. Shayna Ecounified works with scrap distributors and some NGOs around Delhi for procuring segregated plastic waste.
Polypropylene (PP), low-density polyethylene (LDPE) high-density polyethylene (HDPE) polymers are used to make plastic tiles. These three don't emit hazardous gases in a chemical reaction when the polymer chains are broken down.
An array of our day-to-day household products are used to make these plastic tiles. Buckets, jugs, toys, car bumpers, milk pouches, milk jars, containers, jars, chairs and tables to name a few. They are segregated, moulded and repurposed into colourful paver tiles of different sizes, types and load-bearing capacities.
"We give a 50-year guarantee on the product. Our tiles are anti-static, anti-microbial and anti-bacterial which can sustain heat up to 140°C and cold up to -25°C. Damaged tiles can be reused to manufacture new ones," says Paras.
Difficult But Optimistic
Yet Paras faces difficulty in finding takers. "Though there are accolades and appreciation from different quarters, the demand is insignificant. People tell me, 'The tiles are made of scrap. We can build a house only once in a lifetime and we want to use marble and ceramics,'' he says.
However, Paras is hopeful. Within a year of operations, they have managed to get clients such as Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation which has used the tiles in its dog park and became the first such park in India. Shayna Ecounified India also supplies to its collaborator NPL. The company has recently taken up a project with L'Oreal India to make tiles out of L'Oreal's waste plastic bottles.
Shayna Ecounified has also come up with a new product, colourful wall tiles. In a bid to improve margins and broaden its clientele, the B2B company is set to become B2C. New designs are in the works and the company is looking to come up with more and better-recycled plastic products. It has also registered with CPWD (central public works department) in a hope to supply its products to the government.
"Everybody complains that there is too much of plastic waste. I have at least recycled 50,000 kg of plastic waste. This is the process, thinking and strategy that our country is getting cleaned while I earn my bread and butter," says Paras.