What do you do with your plastic water bottle bought in the market? In all likelihood, you just throw it into the dust bin without giving a second thought to its final destination.
Did you know, including those plastic bottles, India generates 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually?
What if you get 15 minutes of electric vehicle charging time in lieu of just two such bottles? Or for that matter, a certain time for free wi-fi? Or cash back on PayTM for a particular number of plastic bottles?
Termed as ‘Reverse Vending Machine’, a latest facility at one of the busiest markets in Delhi at Green Park offers you incentives as mentioned above in lieu of the plastic bottles. The incentives vary according to the number of bottles that you put into the machine.
From July 1, 2022, the government has pledged to phase out all kinds of single-use plastic (SUPs). Plastic bottles and polythene bags form one of the largest chunks of the annual 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste.
A joint initiative of the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) and the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DICCI), a total of 1,000 plastic RVMs are planned to be installed across Delhi and Varanasi as part of the ‘Stand Up India’ and ‘Swachh Delhi, Swavalambi Delhi’ / ‘Swachh Delhi, Swavalambi Kashi’. The first phase includes installing 20 such RVMs in Delhi and 40 at Varanasi. SIDBI & DICCI have a pact for ‘Swavalamban Sankalp’ for helping the economically weaker sections from across the country.
In a first of its kind joint initiative, DICCI is identifying and handholding entrepreneurs from weaker sections of the society to create not just employment opportunities but also increase awareness about and actually tackle the problem of plastic bottles.
These entrepreneurs would also get supplementary income for the maintenance of these machines from advertising carried on them. The SIDBI-DICCI venture has identified one person each to run 10 such machines at different locations across both the cities.
In the Green Park market, Ankesh Rathore explained how the machine works and said, “I will move around myself telling people about the venture and also inform them about the incentives they will get to dispose off plastic bottles into the machine.”
The machine’s boot can gather up to 25 kgs of crushed bottles that comes with an alarm to warn when it is nearing full capacity. One such machine is already installed near the CSD canteen store inside the Army Cantonment near the airport. Similarly, these machines would also be installed at Dr Ambedkar International Centre, Moolchand Hospital, Deer Park among other places.
The bottles gobbled up by the machine are immediately crushed. “Entrepreneurs such as Rathore would sell this crushed residue to plastic waste recyclers that will earn them their livelihood,” DICCI founder chairperson Milind Kamble told IANS.
“We have done basic two-day training for the first batch and now they will undergo an in-depth 14 day training that will also teach them the operations and maintenance of the machines,” Kamble added.
The Plastic Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) are developed by Theta Enerlytics in India. “There is no denying that the problem of plastic pollution is enormous. My first thought was, what can be the incentive so that people are pushed to use such a machine? The incentives such as free wi-fi time, free EV charging time looked feasible as we have CSR funding to support this,” chairperson and co-founder, Karan Dhaul explained the theory behind coming up with these RVM ideas.
The best part is, this effort does not stop at just installing the RVMs. The Environment Ministry has already notified the extended producer responsibility for plastic producers, marketeers etc., whereby it will be compulsory to opt for circular economy.
DICCI and SIDBI along with Theta Enerlytics in India have announced to and are working at getting the whole chain ready wherein the plastic collected will be strictly used for recycling by partner organisations under the MSME initiatives and to ensure Carbon Neutrality, the entrepreneurs involved will use electric vehicles for transportation of the collected plastic etc.
Currently, the logistics issues such as getting power connection for the machine etc. are being sorted out. When asked if the entire exercise is in any which way supported by the government, Gaurav Gupta, Theta Enerlytics co-founder, said, “The local municipal councillors are helping us identify the right place and also in getting these logistics issues sorted.”
The first set of 20 machines in Delhi and 40 in Varanasi will be completed in the next 45 days, Dhaul said.
(Nivedita Khandekar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )