The infinite consumption of a finite supply of natural resources followed by the generation of humongous amounts of non-biodegradable waste has vandalized ecosystems and rendered us vulnerable in the face of pressing problems such as space management due to expanding landfills, accumulating trash, and the disruption of ecological balance. The menace of improper waste management has not only inflicted the health of the environment but inevitably lowered the quality of life on this planet.
The lack of a direct correlation between profit and sustainability allows us to believe that improvisations in the current processes of waste management are simply axillaries for another time. Therefore, compared to frontline innovations which enable a direct flow of finance, developments in the fields of waste management are usually deprioritized and become a secondary topic for discussion or investment. Truth is, turning a blind eye to an apparently engorging social problem like waste accumulation is neither honorable, responsible, nor sensible.
In a city like Mumbai the plastic from household items like milk pouches, chocolate/biscuit wrappers, tubes, and other major and minor articles constitute nearly 3% of the total waste. Next to organic food waste, the next major contributor of the dump is construction debris, accounting for nearly 17% of the total. Although wet waste holds the lion’s share of 73% of the total matter collected by the BMC, the majority of this is degradable and may find its way into various natural cycles. However, the Achilles heel of the entire bulk of collected waste matter is the non-degradable plastic and construction debris collectively constituting a whopping 20%. Moreover, the leftover construction and demolition debris is responsible for not only depleting valuable natural resources such as sand, limestone, etc., but is also a major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.
So the important question is : Can we find a novel and sustainable solution to rid the city of this 20% of waste matter?
The question has been answered by Gen Z ecopreneurs Sharang Ambadkar and Varad Tole, founders of the startup Feel Good Econurture
FeelGood Econurture is a budding venture driven by the vision of a planet with recyclable systems and circular economies. It is the derivative of a common vision shared by two young entrepreneurs, who have introduced the concept of FG tiles. Like innumerable startup players who began their entrepreneurship journey in car sheds or kitchens and metamorphose into jacks of their trades, Sharang and Varad have now established themselves as mainstream developers of commercially viable FG tiles, which is the primary product of their endeavor, since their first amateur attempt at creating a tile recycled from plastic and construction waste using a wrought oven from the junk.
The Evolution of a Concept :
Having identified that the major sources of waste in the city, which are the most difficult to process and manage, are plastic and construction debris. Sharang and Varad churned ideas to reach an adept and feasible solution, which would enable them to bring the seemingly unusable components into the loop for recycling.
Manufacturing FG tiles :
Creating recyclable FG tiles using plastic and construction debris is a 5-step procedure consisting of waste collection, segregation, filtrating, compounding, pelletizing, and molding.
The raw materials, plastic and construction waste, is collected and segregated based on the type of material and, if required, size and color. The segregated plastic is crushed, grounded, freed of impurities, and processed to form chips. The chips are stored separately based on type and color.
Parallelly, the construction debris is crushed, grounded, and filtered through a strainer to stockpile ultra-fine debris.
Both the chips and debris are compounded using a cylindrical machine with rotor blades at a controlled temperature and speed to yield the desired composite mixture.
The composite is processed using a screw extruder into a compounded string which are further slit into granules through a cutting machine to manufacture composite granules.
The granules are further molded to form tiles, which is the final product of this process.
The primary objective achieved through the invention of FG tiles is to provide an Eco-friendly and sustainable solution to the problem of non-degradable plastic and construction debris.
The processed composite constituting FG tiles is recyclable thus adding more material life cycles. The composite is easy to process and transform into different products.
Plastic and building material, which are raw materials to construct FG tiles are easily and plentily available, at low cost.
The waste from this process is used as a resource for another process adding plastic and construction debris within the scope of recyclable resources. Moreover, no natural resources are consumed during manufacturing making it a completely sustainable procedure.
Weight of the paver tiles is nearly 45% lesser than conventional blocks and tiles, providing for cheaper transport.
At the end of the its life cycle, the product itself can be used as a raw material for future production closing the loop of its life cycle.
Significance of the invention
FG tiles are a sustainable solution to fundamentally oust the concern of plastic and construction waste accumulation and manage it effectively.
The invention proves that any material can be transformed into a resource without discarding it as a waste provided we have the right technique and attitude to bring about this transformation.
FG tiles are a potential solution to reducing the plastic waste transported and left untreatable in the landfills. A direct consequence of this processing is the diminished load on landfills, clearing of spaces, reduction in the deposition and disposition of plastic waste into the lands and oceans, and provision of a safer environment to the animals due to cleaner waterways and other habitats. It has been estimated that without significant action, there may be more plastic than fish by weight in the seas by 2050.We have to act to do our bit
An indirect but fundamental consequence of the recycling of this waste is enhancement in air quality due to reduction in plastic incineration, drop in carbon emissions and consumption of fossil fuels. Recycling of construction material can impact environmental quality because 5% of the greenhouse gases are dispersed during the process of conventional cement production.
Data suggests that around 250 MT plastic and over 1340 MT construction debris is generated on a daily basis which amounts to dumping 580350 Metric Tonnes of waste yearly. Instead of piling the discarded non-degradable waste, the same debris can be used as a raw material for creating new items and close the loop of plastic management, preventing the production of virgin plastic matter.
Other than the health and safety of the environment, FG tiles can prove to be affordable substitutes to conventional tiles equivalent in quality and durability besides being a greener alternative.
Generation of revenue from discarded untreatable waste can impact the growth of the economy on a large scale.
Challenges of the near future
Since the concept of sustainable products is amateur to a large section of the audience, probably the primary challenge foreseen by this pair is to sensitize the consumer on the significance of using recyclable material without compromising on the profits. Taking into account the limited focus of consumers on sustainability,Feel Good and Recyclers will require an effective strategy in demonstrating to the bigwigs and stakeholders of the construction industry the promising potential of their product. The superior attributes of the FG tiles and feasibility of their use shall prove to be strongholds to reach out to the relevant audience.
Convincing companies to transient from their current materials and shift to renewable sources is one of the strongest challenges.
The consumer & the Product
All stakeholders linked to the construction industry are potential customers. The partners could leverage the element of first appearances to their opportune advantage and create their unique value in the market.
This product can penetrate the market to provide valuable substitutes to paver blocks, roof tiles, paver tiles, benches and many other products.
Currently we are under the process of getting our product registered under Indian Green Building Council, which will help us cater towards sustainability much more efficiently and to a niche.
As a country we are developing at a great speed and our infrastructure is at high pace, so why not give your development a new and sustainable face where we use such valuable sustainable products made from our own waste.
We desire to drive a positive impact on our environment with various initiatives of which the key and immediate action of planning for providing impact is decreasing CO2 Footprints through our products
Our products will help towards achieving the principles of circular economy and cater to the policy issued of using 25% recycled plastic in construction sector by NITI Aayog, a policy tank of Government of India by supplies alternatives which are made 100% from waste plastic.
Current rise in awareness about contributing towards the environment in common man has led to many positive impacts on the recycling industry we are confident this bullish trend will help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.