Sustainable brands develop strategies to reduce carbon emissions

Bhaiya ek bottle paani dena or “Would you like plain water or bottled water” is something that has been part of our lives for about 20 years. Indeed, when you go to the office these days or especially during the peak of the pandemic, and ask for a glass of water, you are always given a 200ml bottle of water. I’m not here to make you feel guilty about why we ask for bottled water or why we don’t switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives, like carrying your own bottles or drinking from the tap. In fact, drinking water has never been so convenient in our life as it is today.

Plastic has been a blessing in our lives in many ways, far beyond bottles. Whether it’s air conditioners or your favorite car, much of their components today are made of plastic because they’re said to be tough, economical, and easily replaceable. However, it is important to understand its impact on our daily lives.

Global plastic consumption is soaring

Global plastic consumption has grown from 50 million tons in 1976 to more than 7 times or 367 million tons in 2020. Over the same period, our population has grown from 4 billion to nearly 8 billion today. In India, nearly 1 million bottles are purchased every minute in India and while 90% of these are no doubt recycled, the remaining 10% still escapes the recycling process, which accounts for almost 1 lakh of bottles per minute. If we start stacking these bottles, in just 21 days we will have a mountain of plastic bottles that will be taller than the Statue of Unity (182 meters). In addition to this, we also use “single-use plastic” in the form of polythene bags, cosmetic tubes, toothpaste and toothbrushes.

While the above seems like a problem that might be too big for any authority to handle, the solutions are also up to us. The main fact is that most plastics can be converted to their raw form and reused for other purposes.

Recycled boots put to good use

In the clothing industry, clothes made from recycled plastic bottles are hugely successful in all European countries and we hope that we will soon catch up also in the subcontinent. Similarly, plastics are also used on a large scale in the construction of roads and highways. Then, of course, we use recycled plastics to build school desks and the least form we can use them for is in the form of plant stands and pots.

In addition, plastics have a much greater impact and can play a vital role in the field of carbon emissions and therefore climate change. While India boasts a per capita plastic consumption of just 11kg compared to the global average of 28kg per person, we don’t fare so well on the carbon emissions front. We account for nearly 7% of global emissions and rank third on the global carbon emissions list. To counter this impact of “climate change”, plastics play a vital role, especially in a country like India.

For example, clothing made from recycled PET bottles reduces carbon emissions by more than 30% compared to those that are not. If we actively start pursuing all areas of plastic reuse and recycling as well, we will achieve a phenomenon where the produced plastic stays in the economy and out of the environment. Moreover, if plastics stop ending up in landfills and in the oceans, it not only saves our marine life, but also guarantees to reduce the burden on these landfills and helps us to fight climate change in a big way.

Active measures needed to move plastic into the recycling ecosystem

Plastic, which has become such a big villain in the current scheme of things, is effectively a scapegoat or an escape mechanism for anyone unwilling to tackle the real issues. The problem is that the authorities and the general public do not take any action or active habit to ensure that plastic enters the recycling ecosystem instead of ending up on the sides of roads, gutters, streams, rivers and finally the oceans.

We must also applaud the real heroes who manage to get the plastic collected and handed over to the authorities – the scavengers. We need to create a better environment as a society for them to see the same and actually earn an honest living. So the next time you say, Bhaiya ek bottle paani dena, remember you can make a big difference by making sure you buy a product made from recycled fabrics or components. Many sustainable brands are developing strategies and an entire ecosystem to reduce carbon emissions and minimize the use of plastic.

(Kapil Bhatia is CEO and Founder, UNIREC – makes clothes from recycled PET bottles)

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Posted: Friday, March 18, 2022, 1:08 PM IST

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