Bottles for Change - PET Recycling Initiatives by Soft Drink/Drinking Water Giants
TerraGreen|July 2021
In this article Anita Khuller talks about PET bottle recycling initiatives of some major organizations, which proves that with responsible disposal, PET bottles can be recycled or upcycled, and cause less strain on other natural resources. Despite such environment-friendly initiatives, the biggest challenge faced by bottled water companies in India is counterfeiting, especially in the case of 1-litre bottles. She talks about such challenges in this article.
Anita Khuller

According to the All-India Plastic Manufacturers Association, annual plastic production in the country is 13.4 metric tonnes (mt), and is projected to touch over 22 mt in 2021 as it is growing at over 10.5 per cent annually. Of this total, the association claims that as much as 60 per cent plastic is recycled. This ₹1-lakh crore industry has around 50,000 processing (mostly small) units, over 2000 exporters, and employs about 4 million people across the value chain. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the chemical name for polyester, is a clear, strong, and lightweight plastic that is widely used for packaging foods and beverages, especially convenience-sized soft drinks, juices, and water. As per Bisleri, currently in India, 90 per cent of all PET is recycled to make yarn/fibres, fabrics (for shoes, t-shirts, bags, etc.), and sheets for packaging and manufacturing automotive parts.

Plastic, if not disposed of sensibly, can have a negative impact on the environment by getting into rivers, oceans, and landfills. But with responsible disposal, it can be recycled or upcycled, and cause less strain on other natural resources. Whereas recycling refers to processing waste into new materials, upcycling (reusing) refers to taking a product that you would otherwise throw away and give it a new use in life. For example, making paper bags out of old newspaper.

In September 2019, food and beverage major PepsiCo India achieved 100 per cent PET collection and recycling in Maharashtra, its second regional achievement after Delhi. Under its extended producer responsibility (EPR) programme, Pepsico India collected and recycled 6500 mt of post-consumer PET (100 per cent recycled).

In Maharashtra, PepsiCo is working with GEM Enviro Management, a waste management company, and has set up 100 collection points across 36 districts in the state to effectively recycle used PET bottles. Its EPR programme works on strengthening the existing informal collection network involving over 10,000 waste-pickers and ensuring higher income by incentivizing their collection efforts. As per PepsiCo India’s head of sustainability Juhi Gupta, the company has been working across multiple states to collect, segregate, and sustainably manage the equivalent of 100 per cent of its plastic packaging by 2021.

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