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Published on August 20, 2023

Karachi:

At first glance, the Green Earth palatial complex resembles a traditional farmhouse. But something is very special. Everything here – tables, chairs, sofas, swings, manhole covers and even frames for paintings and drawings – are made from recycled plastic and wood waste.

“Everything you find here is green. We let almost nothing go to waste,” said Syed Belal Termeji, an employee of Green Earth, a leading recycling company that turns waste into reusable, eco-friendly Works extensively on recycling of materials.

The project was initiated by Zafar Bhatti, son of Major Raja Aziz Bhatti, the hero of the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War.

Opposite the eye-pleasing place on the southern outskirts of Lahore, behind the elegantly painted high walls, lies another world. Huge bundles of plastic, wood, empty bottles and other disposable materials lined up. Dozens of workers, some without masks, gloves and hearing protection, are busy sorting waste materials in a vast workshop.

The sorted material is washed in a large washing machine before being taken to different departments. “We don’t waste the water that is used to wash off the garbage,” Termezzi told a group of environmental journalists during a visit organized by the Institute of Urbanism, an Islamabad-based think tank. We recycle that water. and use it for cleaning purposes.”

A highlight of Green Earth are the mobile kitchens and toilets, especially for tourists, which are made from recycled plastic from shopping bags. The kitchen can easily be converted into a bedroom.

In addition, pulp, aluminum files and plastics are extracted from milk cartons, which are then converted into raw materials for the production of paper, roofing membranes, manhole covers and other materials. The pulp is mainly sold to paper mills. Recycled disposable bottles are used to make benches, chairs, staple fiber and other raw materials.

The plant, which exports its recycled products, especially plastic benches, can recycle 400 to 450 tonnes of waste per day.

Recycling a new global industry

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, around nine percent of plastic waste is recycled worldwide; The rest goes in the garbage. The increase in solid and plastic waste has contributed enormously to the threats to the global environment. However, this huge challenge can be turned into an economic opportunity through a strong recycling industry.

Recycling has emerged as a full-fledged global industry in recent decades. However, in Pakistan, this opportunity remains largely untapped, even though the country has great potential for start-ups and companies to convert waste into highly lucrative and eco-friendly bio-products.

However, in recent years the field has attracted some attention from the public and private sectors.

The recycling facility set up by the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) is one of the largest waste collection centers in South Asia in terms of operations and workforce. The company with 15,000 employees collects 5,000 to 6,000 tonnes of waste daily. LWMC’s recycling facility is located at the Mahmud Buti landfill site in a suburb of Lahore and has a capacity to handle 100 to 200 tonnes of waste per day.

The landfill also has a facility to produce compost with a capacity of 1,000 tonnes, which is supplied to various nurseries, while two consignments go to the city’s parks and horticulture department, said LWMC chairman Umar Chowdhary.

Located a few kilometers from Mahmud Buti, the Lakhodire landfill covers an area of ​​200 hectares and extracts methane gas stored in the landfill and supplies it to local industries.

Lasani Fiber Industries, another major recycling company, produces regenerated, recycled or carded polyester fiber from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. Last year, it recycled over 18,000 tonnes of PET, which is the equivalent of six million bottles.

The company manufactures 32 products from PET bottles and has a production capacity of 55 tonnes of polyester fiber per day.

Despite the wide-ranging economic and environmental benefits, experts agree that recycling is not an infinite solution to the widespread waste problem, especially plastics. Instead, an approach should be adopted that aims to reduce the amount of waste we produce every day, with a focus on reducing our reliance on plastics. Excessive frequent use of plastics, especially plastic bags, not only poses a serious threat to our marine life, but also clogs up our waterways and natural streams.

The presence of microplastics in drinking water, food and air puts an additional burden on human well-being in the form of long-term effects. Senior Program Dr. Ijaz Ahmed said, “Recycling, reusing etc. are some of the waste management strategies, but the basic question is how to reduce the waste generation. We need to adopt the ‘no waste’ option for our sustainable future. Need to practice.” Fellow at the Institute of Urbanism Islamabad.

Need for alternative financial plan

The ban on plastic products in Pakistan has been a much-discussed issue for a long time. In recent years, several attempts have been made to ban plastic bags, but they have yielded little results due to various reasons, especially the economic context and lack of awareness among the people.

Throughout Pakistan, thousands of people are employed in the production of plastic bags. A comprehensive and immediate ban would leave them jobless at a time when income support for the middle class and lower middle class has become an uphill task. Therefore, the government and environmental agencies should plan to provide alternative economic solutions for these people.

Government support coupled with tapping the recycling industry could be a tonic for the country’s faltering economy. However, before this, safety standards, especially for the health of workers, must be implemented.

As in many other industries, working conditions in the recycling sector do not meet international standards. Most workers either do not have adequate protective clothing or do not wear it while handling garbage. It is the responsibility of the relevant government institutions and companies operating in this sector to enforce their safety regulations and take care of the workers who make money from waste for them.

Mian Amir is a freelance contributor. All facts and information are solely the responsibility of the author

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