New Delhi was host to a workshop and exhibition organized by the Action Alliance for Recycling Beverage Cartons (AARC) on 7 November 2023. Themed ‘Waste Management: Beyond Compliance, Towards Circularity,’ the event had more than 150 delegates from the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MOEFCC), manufacturers of packaging material Tetra Pak, SIG Combibloc as well as GLS Elopak, brands such as Coca-Cola, Dabur, Parle and JDL.
Then there were NGOs, cooperatives such as Amul, academicia like TERI and Thapar Institute, institutions like GIZ, as also waste management associations, plastic waste processors, research scholars and students, advisory firms working on EPR and many others.
The event commenced with an engaging exhibition, featuring innovative advancements in waste management and circular economy solutions, providing a backdrop for a day of enlightenment. The workshop opened with a symbolic lamp-lighting ceremony and a gracious welcome address by Cassio Simoes, chairman of AARC.
Praveen Aggarwal, AARC’s CEO, delivered an introductory presentation, setting the tone for the subsequent discussions. A key moment followed with a keynote address by Amit Love, director at the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change. The event touched on a diverse range of perspectives and expertise, including the integral focus on used beverage cartons.
Addressing the event, Simoes, chairman of AARC and MD of Tetra Pak, said, “While we have taken commendable strides forward, I firmly believe our journey toward doubling the carton recycling rates in India has just begun. Together, we will translate our shared dream into a tangible reality, with every step taken is a testament to the power of collective action. Over the years, we have adeptly navigated the dynamic landscape of waste management and adapted to evolving regulatory frameworks. For us, it is not merely about compliance; it is about building a sustainable foundation for generations to come. In the spirit of unity and collaboration, I echo the timeless sentiment, “Together we can do so little, together we can do so much.” This very essence continues to define and inspire the incredible work of AARC.”
Reflecting on AARC’s journey, Praveen Aggarwal emphasized their evolution from a handful of founding members to over 18 committed stakeholders from across the beverage sector including dairy, juices, pharmaceuticals & spirits. He appreciated the ministry for bringing out the national extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework ensuring that members not only meet the targets but aim beyond compliance.
Over two decades, AARC has demonstrated that cartons are fully recyclable, fostering collaborations and support to recycling networks nationwide, and establishing a thriving ecosystem promoting sustainability in the beverage industry. He said over 70% of paper components in the beverage cartons should be called out in separate categories rather than category III of MLP to ensure appropriate recycling and value addition.
The workshop was structured to encourage interactive discussions and the exchange of knowledge, focusing on critical topics related to waste management and circularity. Some of the key sessions included: Session 1: EPR compliance & fulfillment in the evolving regulatory landscape; session 2: beverage cartons’ contribution to building a low-carbon circular economy; session 3: optimizing collection and collaboration: best practices for UBC (used beverage carton) recycling.
Rachna Arora of GIZ said, “While India’s extended producer responsibility (EPR) framework shows promise in promoting circularity, ground-level challenges persist. Collection hurdles and the informal sector remain prevalent, hindering progress on eco-design disclosures. Industry collaboration and clear consumer communication are crucial to drive meaningful change in recycling practices.”
In an insightful discussion about UBC recycling, Sonia Garga, Chief Strategy officer, Saahas highlighted the need for proper waste management and the positive impact it can deliver on the economic and environmental levels. She further shed light on the importance of segregation and collection systems and how they proved to be one of the vital factors in making the Alag Karo campaign successful.
The day also featured a guided tour of the exhibition, providing attendees with the opportunity to explore multiple ways of fully recycling the cartons and many innovative solutions.