A lot has already been spoken for many years now about the importance of recycling in general. Whether as a function of the 3R (Recycle, Reduce, Reuse) Concept, or as a standalone discipline, its importance has already been engrained in our minds. We continue to do reasonably well on this front in India, given that we recycle about 65% of our plastics, as against the global norm of about 20-25%. However, the problem has been that recycling tends to be an unorganised segment, and its applications are generally extremely low on value-realisation.
Admirable as they already are, these efforts need to be intensified and channelized in a manner that they are worked upon to serve specific applications so that these can find their way up the value chain. This then makes the whole process a focussed and targeted one, rather than a random recycling job. Very often, recycling polymers just renders them into a random usable form with no clarity on the application, and hence no takers. While cost-saving is definitely a benefit and incentive from a user perspective, and makes for a more sustainable industry in a larger perspective, a well-defined application with due studies will ensure that this is taken up more seriously and on a long-term basis rather than in an opportunistic manner.
This will call for a collaborative approach and work between machine manufacturers, additive manufacturers and filler manufacturers, besides the end users, all of whom will play a key role in this pursuit. The supply chain must be standardised, the quality assurance of recycled finished products ascertained and the long-term impact of these from a safety and a compliance viewpoint ensured. Government incentives for such products and applications must also be advocated. It would also get the Industrial Design community excited, a community whose role in our industry has been far under-utilised.
While this kind of well-studied approach might not be possible for all plastics in use, given that a large amount of it is used in simple and basic packaging, it must still be pursued because it allows our industry to harbour a culture of value-added recycling and create that aspirational pull for others to emulate. What could begin as a simple exercise for a given application could spawn many more success stories and get the attention of stakeholders at the highest level. The added advantage of this is that it could give a boost to the simpler and mundane recycling activities underway in any case.
To drive home this point, if the Automotive or the FMCG were to be able to commercialise and popularise a recycled solution, say for a bumper or packaging, as an example, this could become a beacon for other companies and industry sectors to follow, and would be a huge boost for recycling.
Let us hope that we can see some of these examples beginning to emerge and shine through in the interests of our industry and society at large.