From bricks to diapers, Asia is at the centre of the world's 100 billion US dollar plastic waste challenge

Recently, Jon Penrice, Asia-Pacific president of Dow Chemical, one of the biggest producers of chemicals and plastics worldwide, gave 100 billion reasons for plastic recycling. He says around 8 million tons of plastics land in the ocean yearly. If we consider plastic packaging, about ninety-five per cent is not recycled annually, which is approximately 100 US billion dollar worth of plastic. Indeed it is valuable for entrepreneurs.

At the centre is Asia, which utilises around half of the plastic packaging worldwide and imports even more waste from Europe and the United States of America.

So is there any solution for this growing plastic waste?

Well, the answer is yes! Options like Indian vending machines that facilitate used PET bottle scrap recycling to turn into polyester and researchers in Singapore planning alternatives to clean up oil spills using the waste can work wonders to meet the demand for recycled plastics. Notably, the need for recycled plastic will increase quicker than its supply.

But what's the biggest challenge on the way ahead?

Before importing waste pneumatic tyres for recycling, it is necessary to understand the fundamental difference. A used pneumatic tyre is subjected to any use and/or wear. The main constituents of used tyres are rubber, steel and fibre in varied proportions based on their duty. The environmental and safety challenges in recycling used pneumatic tyres occur because of the emission of fibre, fire hazards and fine carbon particles and odour. These partly worn and old tyres can be reused without further treatment, i.e. direct reuse, which includes -

The biggest challenge to the transition is to produce recycled plastics at a competitive quality and price. Virgin plastic is derived from crude oil and is closely associated with global oil prices. The reason is that the recycled plastic cost is more stable; it becomes relatively most costly when the prices of crude oil fall.

Another hurdle is the complexity of sorting different plastic types and dealing with waste at the source instead of generating a lot of carbon emissions by sending it halfway across the world. As per Navneet Chadha, principal operations officer at the World Bank's International Finance Corp., an estimated 80 to 120 US billion dollars are lost because of packaging that goes into the environment.

He added that we must think of used plastic not as a waste but as a resource. Also, he warned that standards for recycled products must be developed to avoid unexpected situations. Case in point, using plastic in road constructions must be analysed further as microplastics can be produced as the road decays.

How plastic recycling in Asia happens?

Plastic is recycled in Asia in the following ways-

Traditional Recycling

Plastic waste is traditionally reused by collecting and sorting reject and then melting it. This is known as mechanical recycling. But the problem is that most of the waste is tainted with chemicals or food and can't be cheaply transformed into high-quality raw materials. COO of SUEZ Group, one of the largest recycling firms worldwide, Jean-Marc Boursier Believes that the biggest challenge is the quality of the recycled plastic. Major consumer goods firms such as Pepsi, Danone or Coca-Cola won't purchase recycled plastic unless assured that the quality is as good as virgin plastic. He also suggests pricing the carbon savings into the recycled plastic price for environmental benefit.


Researchers at the National University of Singapore have created a way to transform low-value plastic waste into aerogels - ultralight materials used in everything from cleaning up oil spills to diaper fillings.

As per a professor at the university, about eight average plastic bottles generate one square metre sheet of aerogel using the method. People discard plastic because they don't see any value. But, as long as we can make it valuable, everyone will sell and keep it.


Using plastic waste to create roads is becoming popular because all kinds of plastic, including flexible films and difficult-to-recycle multilayered packaging and coatings used for food deliveries and to wrap chocolates, can be used.

Reliance Industries In India and Dow Chemical have developed technologies that consume this plastic as a binder, replacing some bitumen.

Reliance Industries has created 40 km of road at its refineries using plastic that can’t otherwise be recycled.

Concurrently Indian Oil Corp., the biggest refiner in India, is trying to get the government to make blending non-recyclable plastics in road laying compulsory.

San Miguel Corp. in the Philippines constructed its first road combining plastic scraps with asphalt the previous year, using surface materials created with Dow. The firm also aided the construction of plastic-based roads in India, Vietnam, Indonesia and the United States.

Penrice added that it is comparatively easy from the technology perspective: you shred the plastic waste, do some sorting and selection, and then feed it into the existing asphalt machinery. Around 100 tons of plastic waste can be recycled into a 40 km road stretch.


Shredding plastic bottles to generate polyester for clothing is another technology that is becoming popular in Asia. Reliance has established reverse-vending machines that gather used bottles in exchange for discount coupons that can be used at its firm stores.


Some non-government firms and organisations are anticipating measures to use waste plastic to make bricks and other construction materials. A prominent firm encourages using blocks firmly stuffed with plastic and other recyclables. Moreover, an India-based startup has created a brick entirely of plastic waste. Named PlastiQube, this brick uses less energy to generate than conventional counterparts and is cheaper.

Chemical Recycling

Shredding plastic scrap into a primary feedstock such as naphtha - a process known as pyrolysis - can reprocess contaminated and dirty plastic, such as detergent drums and mixed polymers, that can't be dealt with through mechanical recycling.

For the unversed, pyrolysis can offer seventeen per cent of the 17 million tonnes of plastic recycling capacity needed by 2030 in major economies.

Boursier believes that mechanical recycling will resume being cheaper. But chemical recycling will be the future for polluted or complex plastic.

Having said that, it is right to anticipate that setting up plastic waste recycling plants in India or Asia holds a bright future. You can also do so easily with EcoserveIndia.

Diksha Khiatani

A writer by day and a reader at night. Emerging from an Engineering background, Diksha has completed her M. Tech in Computer Science field. Being passionate about writing, she started her career as a Writer. She finds it interesting and always grabs time to research and write about Environmental laws and compliances. With extensive knowledge on content writing, she has been delivering high-quality write-ups. Besides, you will often find her with a novel and a cuppa!

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