Of the 900,000 tons of PET made in India annually, 65% is recycled at registered facilities, 15% in the unorganised sector and 10% is reused at homes, states a year long study by scientists from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) - National Chemical Laboratory (NCL). The rest ends up at landfills. The recycling rate for PET in Japan is 72.1%, 48.3% in Europe and 31% in the US.
The data was released on Thursday by NCL and PET Packaging Association for Clean Environment (PACE). “We use a combination of site visits, interviews, literature survey for this study. The team has visited (and continues to visit) PET recycling units across the country. We identified large-scale industries that used discarded PET bottles to produce a variety of products and visited their recycling facilities to incorporate our data,” said Dr Magesh Nandgopal, scientist from NCL’s polymer science and engineering division who carried out the study along with Dr Ashish Lal, head of the division. He added, “What is striking and not many people are aware that the entire Indian cricket team’s apparel for the 2015 world cup was made from recycled PET bottles. Even the their current jersey is made from this material.” The scientists observed that PET bottles were collected, sorted, cleaned, shredded, and made into ‘washed flakes’. “These washed flakes are then used to make (predominantly) polyester fibre, which is used as filling material for cushions, pillows, and converted to fabrics for use in clothing, upholstery, etc.,” said Lal.
The study estimated that while the PET recycling business has a turnover of Rs 3,500 crore in a given year in India, the end products sell at anywhere between Rs50-110 per kg. Discarded PET bottles fetch waste collectors Rs14-15 kg. These bottles are bought by kabadiwallahs (scrap dealers) or waste traders, who employ people to segregate, sort and further sell it to large vendors or recyclers.