Household Plastic Recycling: Things to know

You would be surprised to know that in today’s times PET bottles are among the most valued waste materials. A kilogram of PET bottles is valued between Rs 12-15! But what about other plastics? The plastic packets in which your everyday groceries are packed, or the take-away containers of the restaurant, or the packaging materials that come with your online orders, milk packets etc.! All of these most often end up in the landfill and ofcourse remain in our environment for centuries.

So, what can you do as a citizen who is concerned about this issue? Here are the steps to follow if you are keen to do something about this at an individual level.

Identify an organisation who work in the space of plastic recycling. For example, in Mumbai there is a group called Project Mumbai who organise plastic recyclathons on a regular basis. They have been running this initiative for several years now. This only requires us to collect, clean and stack our plastic waste. So how does one do this?

Step 1

Firstly, refuse plastic where ever possible. For example, I have been carrying a cloth bag with me for nearly 15 years now. Anytime you wish to buy something, you have your own bag. If the shopkeeper packs your items in a plastic bag, refuse the plastic bag. It goes a long way. Think about it this way. Assume that I shop every fortnightly for my groceries and vegetables for the last 15 years with my own bag. This translates to me refusing nearly 360 plastic bags over the last 15 years!

Side note: The so-called woven and non-woven cloth like bags shops give out these days are also some form of plastic (polypropylene). So don’t fall for that trap.

Step 2

Reduce your plastic waste generation as much as possible. If you have opportunities to reduce the amount of plastic you get into your home, then find out these options. For eg, I always buy unpackaged fruits and vegetables (which is commonly available in Indian markets). If you have the option to buy khula groceries (unpackaged), then go for it. Unfortunately, many items like mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, baby corn, certain fruits tend to come only in packaged forms, which is so disappointing!

Even with all your attempts to refuse and reduce, you will find that plastic enters your home in copious amounts. So here is what you do next.

Step 3
Step 4
One only needs to rinse these lightly. But for items where the food sticks to the packet- like milk packets, ketchup sachets, chocolate wrappers, oil packets- one needs to use warm and/or soapy water to rinse thoroughly. This is the most time-consuming or boring part. But to be honest, once this becomes part of your routine, you don’t find it time-consuming anymore. You use a vessel and dump it in the sink, do the same with a plastic packet laden with food in it.

Your accumulated plastic waste will look something like this at the end of 2-3 months or more depending on how much plastic you consume.

Your aim should be to reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate with each round of accumulation.
For example, if you accumulate 1.65kgs of plastic in 2 months, then reduce that to 1.2kg in the next 2 months and so on.

Keep looking for ways to reduce the plastic that enters your home. To take an example, I am slowly phasing my way out of buying laundry detergents and dish washing liquids, because they come in plastic bottles and packets. But they are important requirements. So I am experimenting with companies who offer to supply laundry detergents in reusable bottles or in your own containers. That means, if I have old plastic containers, I can just get the laundry liquids and dish washing liquids filled in that. Further, many companies also offer eco-friendly detergents that are safe even for the environment. Experiment with these and find out what is most economical for you based on your usage and needs. (Unfortunately, we don’t have many options in the market and it might be expensive too…so we need to see what works for us)

Hope you found this post useful. I will be posting some more writings on waste management in the near future, so keep watching this space.

PS: I have written about waste management in the past in a newsletter. You can go through those as well.

Muralidhar, A. (2017, February). Addressing the elephant in the room, or rather the dumping ground outside your room. BYN@88 Newsletter, Vol 1 (3), 2.

Muralidhar, A. (2017, August). Understanding the waste hierarchy. BYN@88 Newsletter, Vol 2 (1), 1-2.

Muralidhar, A. (2018). What to do with all that paper? BYN@88 Newsletter, Vol 2 (2), 3.

Muralidhar, A. (2018). What can we do with all that plastic? BYN@88 Newsletter, Vol 2 (3), 6-8.

Muralidhar, A. (2018, July). All that is left: Metal, glass and medical waste. BYN@88 Newsletter, Vol 3 (1), 4.

Education and Awareness

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My name is Adithi Muralidhar. I am a nature enthusiast based in Mumbai, India.

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