In Sri Lanka, being a developing nation, solid waste, especially Municipal Solid Waste, has now become a critical issue in the urban and sub urban areas of the country. This situation is mainly due to the absence of appropriate solid waste management systems, basically responsible by the respective authorities in the state. In general, waste management is the collection, transportation, and disposal of garbage, sewage and other waste products. In other words, as per the literature referred, it is the process of treating solid wastes which offers variety of solutions for recycling items that don’t belong to trash. It is basically, about how garbage can be used as a valuable resource. The rate of generation of solid waste in the society today is increasing with the increase of population, technological development, and the changes of the life style of the people.
Among the newest trends of Waste Management, Recycling is also taking a prominent place. Recycling is processing used materials (waste) into new, useful products. This is done to minimize the consumption of raw materials that would have been used. Recycling also uses less energy and of course, a great way of controlling air, water and land pollution.
Effective recycling starts with households and the commercial units (or the place where the waste was created). In many developed and developing countries, the authorities help households with bin bags with labels on them. Households then sort out the waste themselves and place them in the right bags for collection. This makes the work less difficult. In Sri Lanka too, this practice was brought in to general public recently, and the urban and sub urban areas do practice this to a greater extent. Municipal Councils are also encouraging this practice by offering the garbage bins / bags at affordable prices and etc.
Although in Sri Lanka, waste is a huge issue, in other countries waste/ garbage is a resource through which entities and individuals can earn profits. One of the main ways is recycling the garbage in bulk, and in this study, recycling plastic in a profit making manner in terms of a business activity has been discussed in detail.
It is expected via this study report to introduce the most effective method of Waste Management practices – “Recycling” to Sri Lanka. This study includes researching based on primary and secondary data. A lot of newspaper articles and magazines were referred and, this study has taken in to consideration various perspectives presented by various authorities with regards to the recent Meethotamulla Garbage collapse incident.
Also, the documents presented by the Municipal Council – Dehiwala Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka have been referred to a greater extent, and other supportive documents include the articles by government divisions with regards to solid waste management. A primary data collection was also carried out in terms of in-depth interviews, and most of the information were gathered from the discussion with the Municipal Commissioner of DMMC.
However, the main objectives of this study report can be summarized as below:
- To promote Sri Lanka as a nation with good Waste Management practices.
- To contribute reducing the trash load daily collected in huge bulks to waste lands such as Meethotamulla, Sri Lanka.
- To contribute in reducing the Environmental Pollution in the country.
- To introduce new trends of recycling, especially plastic recycling to Sri Lanka.
- To create new employment opportunities in the country via the recycling business organization to be implemented.
- To gain profits through Plastic recycling
Any sort of effort aimed at saving the environment is very important and matters a lot. Since its inception during the environmental revolution in the late 1960s, plastic recycling is one of the most encouraged solid waste management programs in the world. Prior to the push to use of plastic containers by manufacturers, products were packaged in glass, metal and paper. Therefore, in order to keep our environment clean, reduce landfills, provide a sustainable supply of plastics to manufacturers, it is important to recycle plastics. This report is aimed at this.
Analysis of the New Business Opportunity
According to the technical guidelines on solid waste management in Sri Lanka prepared by the Hazardous Waste Management Unit- Pollution Control Division of the Central Environmental Authority, Sri Lanka, Solid Waste include,
- Municipal Waste
- Domestic waste (exclusive of sewage and hazardous waste)
- Commercial waste (Market waste)
- Institutional wastes (schools, hospitals (non-clinical), public offices, etc.)
- Street sweeping and beach cleansing waste
- Garden waste (Tree cuttings and grass cutting wastes)
- Wastes collected from drains and water courses in urban areas
- Construction wastes
- Industrial wastes which can be accepted in municipal landfills (hazardous wastes are excluded).
For the purpose of recycling, the main requirement is actually categorization of the garbage, and it is to be noted that this method is practiced by the Colombo district people in Sri Lanka. For this purpose, there are separate days for the collection of degradable waste and those are not, and all vehicles, and the regions with the dates are pre scheduled by the municipal.
The municipal council also has decided to provide baskets for the purpose of garbage collection in a categorized system so that the households and the commercial units could separately dump polythene, and the degradable waste to each baskets.
In the case of Dehiwala- Mount Lavinia Municipal Council the combination of wastes that get collected in a daily basis is as follows:
Source : Dehiwala – Moun Lavinia Municipal Council
The daily municipal solid waste that gets collected accounts to 149.77 MT and 10.5% of this is acquired by plastics, both soft and hard. ( Soft 13.63 MT and Hard 2.10 MT) which is a considerable portion of the daily waste load. Of all the different materials tossed in the trash, plastics cause by far the biggest problem. They last a long time in the environment without breaking down—sometimes as much as 500 years. They’re very light and they float, so plastic litter drifts across the oceans and washes up on our beaches, killing wildlife and scarring the shoreline. The only trouble is, plastics are relatively hard to recycle. There are many different kinds of plastic and they all have to be recycled in a different way. There’s so much plastic about that waste plastic material doesn’t have much value, so it’s not always economic to collect. Plastic containers also tend to be large and, unless people squash them, quickly fill up recycling bins.
All told, plastics are a bit of an environmental nightmare—but that’s all the more reason we should make an effort to recycle them! Different plastics can be recycled in different ways. If this portion of plastic can be used for recycling, the amount of garbage that goes to the final garbage destination also gets reduced, which is a huge relief to the environment. As the garbage in Colombo is already categorized as per the instructions by the Municipal Council, it is much more convenient to access the plastics, and then it is just a matter of recycling and making some good profit out of the recycles plastic matters.
There are quite a lot of plastic manufacturers in Sri Lanka, and they can be easily convinced to be buyers of the recycled plastics, because, using recycles plastics for the products that they manufacture is on one side, a great good will to them. Going in the Green concept, then the plastic items could be priced at a higher rate than the general plastic products in the market.
Introduction to the New Business
Plastic is among the most popular and important materials used in the modern world, and the situation is the same in Sri Lanka too, especially in Colombo and suburbs. However, its popularity is part of the huge problem and reason why plastics should be recycled. Instead of throwing them away polluting the land and our water bodies, we can optimize the lifespan of plastics by recycling them.
Plastic recycling refers to the process of recovering waste or scrap plastic and reprocessing it into useful product. Due to the fact that plastic is non-biodegradable, it is essential that it is recycled as part of the global efforts to reducing plastic and other solid waste in the environment.
Why Plastic to be recycled?
- Provision of a Sustainable Source of Raw Materials
Recycling plastics gives out a sustainable source of raw materials to the manufacturing industry. Once the plastics are recycled, they are sent to plastic manufacturing industries to be redesigned and converted into new shapes and used in different appliances.
- Reduces Environmental Issues
Since plastics are non-biodegradable, they contain a high risk to the people and the environment as a whole. They can block sewer lines, drainages and other waterways leading to blockages and unwanted pileups. When plastics are eliminated through recycling, the environment is expected to be clean and inhabitable.
- Reduces Landfill Problems
Recycling plastics reduces the portion of plastic being taken to the ever diminishing landfill sites. Most countries have designated areas specifically meant for burying plastics. When they are recycled, these sites will receive little or no plastic garbage. The remaining areas can be used for other purposes instead of dumping plastics that do not rot. These areas then can be used for agriculture or for human settlement. It should be understood that human population is growing each day and land is becoming a problem. Instead of misusing the land for garbage disposal it can be used for settlement and other important economic activities.
- Consumes Less Energy
Recycling of materials including plastics requires less energy as compared to making the plastic from scratch. This saves energy and that energy can be put to other important things in the economy. It is therefore important to encourage plastic recycling in the manufacturing industry as it will save the economy billions of money. The process of manufacturing plastic using natural raw materials is expensive and time consuming compared to the recycling process.
- Encourages a Sustainable Lifestyle among general public
Individuals who have ventured into plastic collection and recycling business will experience improved lifestyles as they will get their daily income from the business. This will in the long run improve the economy and boost the living standards of the people.
Commonly Recycled Plastics (can be often seen among garbage)
- Polyethylene Terephthalate
This type of recycled plastic is tough, has excellent clarity, is strong and has barrier to moisture and gas. It is used in the manufacture of water, soft drinks, peanut butter and salad dressing bottles and jars.
- High Density Polyethylene
This recycled plastic is known for its excellent stiffness, resistance to moisture, strength, versatility, toughness and reduced permeability to gas. It is used in the manufacture of water, juice and milk bottles. It is also used to make retail and trash bags for households and business people.
- Polyvinyl Chloride
Abbreviated as PVC, polyvinyl chloride has a number of applications. It is versatile, can be bended easily, it is tough and strong. This recycled plastic is commonly used in the manufacture of juice bottles, PVC piping and cling films.
- Low Density Polyethylene
This is the most common type of recycled plastic. It has exceptional ease of processing; it is strong, flexible, tough, and resistant to moisture and it’s easy to seal. This plastic is usually used in making frozen food bags, flexible container lids, and freezable bottles.
The Recycling Process
The general plastic recycling process adopted from Rinkesh (2009) in Earth911 has several steps in it. The simplest of plastic recycling process involve collecting, sorting, shredding, washing, melting, and pelletizing. In fact, the actual processes vary based on plastic resin or type of plastic product.
Plastics are available in a number of forms for example plastic containers, jars, bottles, plastic bags, packaging plastic, big industrial plastics. Due to their nature and availability, there are plastic collection centers and some business people have ventured into plastic collecting business as a source of income. Tons and tons of scrap plastic are collected and sent to a collecting yard where they are then packed and transported to plastic processing plants.
In Sri Lanka, especially in Colombo district, which is our area of focus, the collection of garbage is a responsibility of the Municipal Council, and now, it has been a general practice by the Business organizations and households to group the garbage bins as bio degradable and those which are not.
Once the garbage is collected by Municipal councils, they are then looked for available options. Generally, as per the records of Dehiwala Mount Lavinia Municipal council, the non-bio degradable garbage collected has two options. Those garbage which can be recycles, and have buyers are supplied to them at a price to the Municipal, and those which cannot be recycled are forwarded to Karadiyana landing.
Thus, CLEAN should register as an official buyer of the plastics collected by the Municipal, and have a strategy to take those plastic garbage to the factory premises on a daily base, or a weekly base.
The actual plastic recycling process starts with sorting of the different plastic items by their resin content and color. This process is also done to ensure all contaminates are eliminated. There are specially designed machines that help in sorting of the plastics according to their resin content. Then the recycling mill sorts the scrap plastic by symbols at the bottom of the plastics.
CLEAN, for this process, should have its factory in such a manner where the logistics from Municipal Council to the factory is convenient, and also should have the skilled employees as per the requirement, as well as the sorting machines.
After sorting the plastics, the next step is to cut the plastics into tiny chunks or pieces. The plastic bottles and containers are then ground and cut into tiny pieces or flakes. The heavier and lighter plastic flakes are separated using a specially designed machine. The separation process helps in ensuring that the different plastics are not put together or mixed up in the final product.
For this purpose, the requirement of non-skilled laborers arises, and this can give a number of employment opportunities to the un-employed members of the society.
After a complete separation, the flakes or chunks are then washed with detergents to remove the remaining contamination. Once the cleaning process is complete, the clean flakes are passed through specialized equipment that further separates the plastic resin types. The plastic flakes are then subjected to moderate heat to dry.
The dry flakes are melted down. They can be melted down and molded into a new shape or they are melted down and processed into granules. The melting process is done under regulated temperatures under the supervision of skilled technicians. There is specialized equipment designed to melt down plastic without destroying them.
6. Making of pellets
After the melting process, the plastic pieces are then compressed into tiny pellets known as nurdles. In this state, the plastic pellets are ready for reuse or be redesigned into new plastic products. It is in this pellet form that plastics are transported to other plastic manufacturing companies (buyers of CLEAN) to be redesigned and be used in making other useful plastic products.
Possible Buyers and Suppliers of CLEAN
- Colombo Municipal Council
- Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia Municipal Council
- Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte Municipal Council
- Kaduwela Municipal Council
A wide range of goods can be fabricated with recycled plastics. Some articles include plastic bottles, carrier bags, and polyethylene bin liners. Other examples include fiber filling for sleeping bags and duvets, a variety of office accessories, ducting and flooring, drainage pipes, damp proof membrane, fleeces, seed trays, water butts, garden sheds, compost bins, fencing, garden furniture and decking.
Thus, any company manufacturing the above items, is a potential buyer for CLEAN.
- Lanka Plastic Industries (Pvt) Ltd, Wattala
- Zahra International Impex (PVT) Ltd, Colombo
- POLYPAK SECCO LTD, Colombo
- Pet Containers (pvt) Ltd, Mount Lavinia
- Shanthi Plastic (Pvt) Ltd, Mount Lavinia
- DK Plastic Industries, Ja Ela
- Polydime International (Pvt.) Ltd, Colombo
- Mona Plastics, Dehiwala
- Nilkamal Eswaran Plastics (Pvt) Ltd, Piliyandala
- DSI Plastics, Kelaniya
Strengths & Weaknesses of CLEAN in undertaking the business
- The competition for CLEAN from other plastic recycling bodies being less
In Colombo, Sri Lanka, business organizations engaging in recycling garbage is so less, and out of them, the large scale entities are zero.
Other companies found dealing in the same/similar industries
– Naturecare Waste Plastic Recycling Unit
– Royel Plastic Recycling Center , Ja Ela
- Ease of access to both buyers and suppliers. High negotiation power
CLEAN being the only large scale plastic recycling body, operating under International Standards, it can easily come in to agreements with the Municipal councils to take the plastic trash from them. Municipal Councils are also in search for buyers of trash, especially those of plastics because as they are non-bio degradable, plastics are a burden to Municipal Councils as well. Thus, at a discounted rate, CLEAN could buy the plastic garbage from them, and sometimes, if the factory is placed close, logistics could also be arranged with the help of Municipal Councils on a daily basis.
From the side of customers of CLEAN, they are of course the plastic items manufacturers in Sri Lanka, and rather than making their own raw material, getting them from outside suppliers in less expensive to them. Here, choosing CLEAN as their buyers will add a competitive edge to them as well, because, this ‘recycled’ feature will add an extra value and a quality factor to their products.
In general scenario, when a business starts up, the most difficult task is to get the publicity and the good will from the society. But, as CLEAN directly links with reducing one of the main burning issues in the country – garbage accumulation, the good will that CLEAN gets is very much high, and the publicity too is so positive. This will indirectly help the company to attract more investments and aids from various parties.
- Lack of precise resources
As mentioned in the description about the process of plastic recycling, quite a lot of resources are required initially for CLEAN.
The first one will be a land, and other infrastructure (including the machinery of high tech) in order to have the CLEAN factory. This will indeed require a large amount of initial investment. Some of the machines will also be needed to import from foreign countries, as in Sri Lanka this technologies are not very familiar.
On the other hand, although for minor tasks such as smashing, non-skilled workers can be employed, for activities such as sorting, the skilled, and the trained employees with the relevant knowledge have to be taken in. The expertise workers who have the technical knowledge too are quite expensive generally, because their demanding power is high. It is also another issue that none of the parties is directly responsible for the training and development of the employees and employers engaged in plastic recycling.
However, it is suggested that, CLEAN could get the financial and technical assistance from EDB, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and other governmental bodies because, even though they have not done before, these institutions are always willing to lend a helping hand for upcoming entrepreneurs.
Recycling is critical to effective end-of-life plastic management. Increasing recycling rates have resulted from greater public awareness and increased the effectiveness of recycling operations. The trends are expected to continue, but continued investment in research and development will be fundamental to overcoming technical challenges.
Recycling of a greater range of post-consumer plastic products and packaging will further enable the recycling industry to increase the overall recycling rates and divert more end-of-life plastic wastes from landfills. To improve the environmental performance of the polymer industry, it is important to increase the use and specification of recycled grades as a replacement for virgin plastics.
However, if CLEAN is to start plastic recycling in 2018 for a longer time period of 10 forth coming years, it may also have to pay attention on the external environmental factors (opportunities and threats), especially coming from Legal environment and technological environment. However, it is expected that CLEAN will survive good in the long run, because ongoing trends are for green products, ecofriendly manufacturing and 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle)
- US EPA: Recycling: Basic information: The main EPA website about how to recycle things, including what happens to recycled materials and other ways of reusing things (such as donating used electronic equipment to good causes).
- Recycling still the most effective waste disposal method, report finds by Juliette Jowit, The Guardian, 16th March 2010. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/mar/16/recycling-waste-disposal )
- Waste Management of Dehiwala Mount Lavinia Municipal Council, Sri Lanka- the hand book
- TECHNICAL GUIDELINES ON SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT IN SRI LANKA- Prepared by Hazardous Waste Management Unit, Pollution Control Division- Central Environmental Authority
- Plastics recycling: challenges and opportunities by Jefferson Hopewell,1 Robert Dvorak,2 and Edward Kosior2 (2009)