While waste pickers in India are at the forefront of recycling and in turn reducing the waste burden in cities, 12-grader Udit Singhal has found an innovative way to deal with glass bottles which pile up at restaurants and homes and often end up in a landfill.
Udit, 17, started searching online for how glass can be turned into something useful in 2018 when he saw bottles piling up in his neighbourhood. He came across a unique technology used in New Zealand to crush glass into sand.
“The sand produced is 100% recyclable because it can be used in the construction sector as a replacement for sand since glass has a large silica component. I thought it will be very useful in India, but the technology came at a cost,” said Udit.
Since it was outside his budget, he wrote to the New Zealand High Commission in New Delhi, which gave him the grant to procure the machine for India. Udit now plans to run a collection system for gathering glass bottles from restaurants, hotels, embassies, neighbourhoods etc. “I want to scale up the concept and see how the sand can be used,” he said.
After the imposition of GST in 2017, large registered dealers of waste have reduced the amount of waste they were buying from waste pickers and are buying waste at lower prices from waste pickers because the dealers will have to pay for the GST imposed. This, in turn, is leading to smaller and mid-level waste dealers also paying a lower price.
In some cases, waste pickers are refusing to pick up glass waste because it does not earn them money. There is an 18% GST on plastic waste, 12% on paper, 18% on glass and others, which has lowered the profit margins for waste-dealers and informal waste-pickers end up getting nothing.
“GST has reduced the value of waste and is directly impacting recycling by informal waste pickers,” said Shashi Bhushan Pandit of All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh (AIKMM).