Sustainability and plastic waste management is a hotly discussed topic in India these days. Beverage major Bisleri International is one of the biggest consumers of PET and therefore is a big part of the ecosystem. To contribute its bit in addressing the issue of sustainability, the company launched the ‘Bottles for Change’ initiative a year ago. The initiative aims to educate citizens about the importance of recycling plastic in their lives, thereby bringing about a habit change of not putting it as a waste.
“Irresponsible disposal of waste is the biggest challenge and, unfortunately, not much focus is on users of plastic. All the talk is about waste management or how plastics are the real problem. With the ‘Bottles for Change’ initiative we are trying to make users aware that plastic is not the problem. It is, in fact, collectible, recyclable and reusable. It is a valuable resource,” says Anjana Ghosh, director – Marketing & Business Development at Bisleri International.
Through the ‘Bottles for Change’ initiative, Bisleri is trying to channelize all kinds of used clean plastic for recycling. The lighter plastic materials like milk pouches, multi-layers packets, wrappers and plastic pouches which are consumed are in much greater volumes as compared to other plastic materials. The majority of these items are from daily household use. Since they are thrown in the waste and are unclean, the housekeeping staff or waste pickers do not segregate them, eventually leading them to dump yards. The ‘Bottles for Change’ initiative is trying to create value by urging users to collect the used plastic separately at home, clean it and segregate it, so that it can directly be sent for recycling.
“It has been one year since the initiative started and I am glad to say that it has been beautifully received by the stakeholders. We have been very successful in implementing this program in Mumbai. As more and more people realize that plastics are a valuable resource and should not be irresponsibly disposed of, we will be able to solve the problem of plastic waste,” Ghosh says.
Presently ‘Bottles for Change’ works in 14 wards of Mumbai and a few parts of Thane and Navi Mumbai. The stakeholders involve housing societies, corporates, schools and colleges, and hotels & restaurants. ‘Bottles for Change’ vehicle goes for the collection of used plastic from the stakeholders on a daily/weekly basis. The collection happens through plastic agents (kabadiwalas/NGO partners/recyclers).
The process starts with an awareness session with the stakeholders, enrolling them in the program, encouraging them to segregate clean plastic at home, giving it to their housekeeping and from them collecting it through Bisleri’s defined plastic agents in those areas.
Over the course of the last year, through the ‘Bottles for Change’ program, Bisleri has managed to collect 4800 tons of plastic and recycle 1000 tons. The initiative has reached 500,000 citizens, 600 housing societies, 300 corporates, 200 schools, and 400 hotels and restaurants.
Further improvements in the program
After working with various stakeholders for a year, Bisleri came across multiple challenging scenarios and ideas. Based on the experience, it has come up with an add-on project under the ‘Bottles for Change’ in K East and West wards of Andheri. In the new project, it has engaged with plastic agents (kabadiwalas) for the collection process. An application has been developed through which an individual can get connected to the nearest plastic agent who then goes for collection. After collecting the plastic, the plastic agents submit to the appointed recycler through which all the collected plastic directly goes for recycling.
Taking the initiative beyond Mumbai
With the initial success of the program, Bisleri is not only planning to expand in Mumbai but is also trying to take it to other cities.
“Yes, the response in Mumbai has been very good and we have a mandate to take the ‘Bottles for Change’ initiative to many more cities. We are looking to take it to six or seven more cities in India in the coming future,” says Ghosh.