Embracing the Circular Economy in Plastic Waste Management: A Sustainable Future
The circular economy is a model that emphasizes resource efficiency and waste reduction by closing the loop of product lifecycles. In the context of plastic waste management, the circular economy model can play a pivotal role in addressing the global plastic waste crisis. A judicious choice of technology is essential for resource recovery, processing, and disposal of municipal solid waste.
Technology Options for Dry Waste Processing
Several technologies are available for dry waste processing, each with its unique advantages and applications. Some of these include:
- Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs): These facilities sort and separate recyclables from waste streams, improving the efficiency of recycling processes.
- Mechanical Recycling: This process involves the physical transformation of plastic waste into new products.
- Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF) for Co-processing: RDF is a fuel produced from various types of waste, including non-recyclable plastics. It can be used in industrial processes as a partial replacement for fossil fuels.
- Plastic to Road Construction: Plastic waste can be used in road construction, providing a valuable use for non-recyclable plastics.
- Pyrolysis: This process involves the thermal decomposition of plastic waste in the absence of oxygen, producing a mixture of oil, gas, and char.
- Gasification: This is a process that converts organic or fossil fuel-based materials into carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide.
- Waste Incineration: This involves the combustion of organic substances contained in waste materials to generate energy.
Case Study: Indore Municipal Corporation’s Material Recovery Facility (MRF) Model
NEPRA Resource Management Pvt. Ltd., India’s leading dry waste management company, has been working on a PPP mode at various locations, including Indore Municipal Corporation (Madhya Pradesh). Its dry waste management achievements in the MRF since 2019 have been significant, and such successful MRFs can be replicated in other Metro Cities.
Circular Business Models in Dry Waste Management
There are five distinct types of circular business Models that can be adopted in dry waste management. These models can help identify avenues for tackling plastic consumption or even create alternative markets while reducing the need for generating more plastic or producing plastic that has a longer life, not aggravating the waste problem.
Digital Enablement in Waste Management
Digital enablement can play a major role in transforming the dry waste value chain, making it more traceable, accountable, and digitally governed. Some of the digital solutions that can improve transparency, traceability, and accountability include:
- Digitization of waste pickers: Waste collectors and waste pickers are registered in the system and get their ID card suitably authenticated by the concerned Urban Local Body (ULB) and the implementing partner. This helps in faster formalisation of informal waste-pickers through digitisation, providing them further access to various Government schemes.
- Digitization of Waste Flow and Material Recovery Facilities: Waste needs to be tracked at every stage, from source to concerned waste collector and to material recovery centres. This can be enabled through unique QR codes, GPS-based tracking, and role-based access control to ensure security and easy governance.
- Digital Reporting system: Reporting shall be stakeholders’ wise i.e., EPR body, municipal bodies, implementation partners, and operations team. Such reports help in analyzing waste-related data and plan suitable interventions.
- Digital Waste Exchange: An app-based waste exchange platform that provides fair price market access to waste pickers, recyclers, companies to transact with each other at a fair price.
To improve circularity in dry waste management, it is essential to provide direction and monitor actions of each of the stakeholder’s role in the dry waste value chain on a regular basis. This will lead to better material flow efficiencies, cost & material optimization, and waste minimization while reducing adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
The integration of technology, innovative business models, and digital enablement in plastic waste management can significantly contribute to the realization of a circular economy. By leveraging these tools, we can transform the way we manage plastic waste, creating a sustainable future that benefits both the environment and society.