Plastic recycling into eco-friendly solutions demand public, govt attention for innovations

Lahore: The increasing solid waste generation in Lahore has unveiled a plethora of opportunities for young startups and entrepreneurs to explore and galvanise unique solutions to turn trash into highly lucrative and environment friendly bi-product.

The Institute of Urbanism (IoU) and Heinrich Böll Stiftung organised a two-day exposure visit for eco-journalists to the Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC)’s solid waste landfill sites, Green Earth Recycling and Lasani Fibre Industries who are aggressively working on waste recycling into reusable eco-friendly material. The visit was facilitated by WWF-Pakistan.

The journalists visited LWMC, Mahmood Booti and Lakhodair dumping sites where the Senior Manager Communications and focal person LWMC, Umar Chaudhary and Director Project, LWMC, Ali Niazi briefed the journalists on the sites working and operations.

Umar Chaudhary informed the journalists that the LWMC claims to be Asia and the region’s largest waste Management company in terms of its operations and workforce.
The Company owns around 15,000 staff, some 1,400 vehicles that function in three different shifts and collect 5,000-6,000 metric tonnes (Mt) waste daily. The Company 6,000 garbage containers were placed across the city for garbage collection.
He added that the Mahmood Booti site left over waste after recycling was managed by soil capping and plantation on the site.
“Around 40-60 % of green or organic waste has been segregated from the total collected garbage. The LWMC since its inception in 2010 reduced 21 million tonnes of waste from the environment and gathered it in the form of a heap,” Umar Chaudhary said.
The landfill site has a 1000 tonnes capacity plant for compost production. The Compost produced by LWMC is sent to different nurseries whereas two consignments have been sent to the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA).
The LWMC is selling the compost for Rs 8 per kilogrammes (kg) whereas in the market the compost is being sold for Rs60-200 per kg.
The compost is named as “Balia” packed in 5-20 kg packaging and also available in bulk open for
Rs 14 per kg in packaging and Rs 8 per kg open bulk.
The LWMC focal person underlined that the Company had collected 60,000 tonnes of off during Eid ul Azha which was one of the major waste collection operations.

He urged that the young entrepreneurs need to be encouraged to work on innovative waste recycle solutions and they can send quotations or requests to LWMC for desired product or material for the recycled products.

The LWMC had 40-50 staff engaged for community awareness whereas the three bins model has been introduced to start on source segregation of the waste.
The Prime Minister had ordered to charge a fine of Rs 1,000 on littering on shopkeepers whereas the enforcement department of LWMC imposes that penalty.
The LWMC apart from the city area had its jurisdiction over Manga Mandi, Raiwind City, Shahdara Town, and Badian Road till border area.

The LWMC was owned by the Punjab government after the Turkish company handed over the operations in 2021.

During the visit to Lakhodair, the in charge of the Site, Muhammad Ali said the LWMC landfill site is spreading over an area of 200 acres comprising two parts of 60 acres dump site and 70 acres landfill site including allied structures and leachate pools.
Moreover, 25 acres of land has been dedicated for waste to energy project.
Some 34,919 square meters area is dedicated for construction and devolution material management that is mostly found in the waste.
There are four active disposal grounds and two reserved for additional disposal grounds. There were almost 350-400 per day trips of vehicles collecting solid waste across the city.

The EPA certified Lab conducts the analysis of the area’s soil every month which indicated that the groundwater parameters were not alarming in the vicinity of the landfill site.
At Lakhodair site, the LWMC holds 24/7 operations with 97 staffers working in shifts.
In 2021, Bloomberg and Canadian journal reported utilisation of Landfill Gas pilot project that intended to sale methane gas accumulated in the garbage heaps to local industries.
Muhammad Ali informed that the gas composition is 45-50% methane and the remaining is CO2 and moisture.
“It’s not monetarily beneficial but cuts emissions from the environment. A local industry invested it’s capital in infrastructure to get it’s gas transferred to run the plant and it worked. It’s the fifth month and the industry is running it’s plant,” he added.

Methane quantification in the landfill site has been done but it’s not exact but rather an estimated value of the total entrapped gas which gets released in the atmosphere, he added.
Muhammad Ali said there was need to develop customized meters to hold metering of gas provided to the industry but it was very costly.
There are total five factories getting gas supply from Lakhodair dumping site whereas 43 gas vents have been established to prevent methane explosion.
RDF plant with DG cement was 1000 tonnes per day that halted during COVID-19

Director Project, LWMC Ali Niazi said the Punjab Power Development Company called for waste to energy expression of interest whereas 5-7 companies approached and expressed interest in it.
It will cost $3.5 million per megawatt, he added.

CEO, LWMC Babar Sahibdin also interacted with journalists. He said the LWMC is the largest public enterprise engaged in waste collection, transportation and scientific disposal.

However, he said waste segregation at source and enclosures were being modeled with the help NGOs whereas a memorandum of understanding was signed with the Harvard University and LUMS to conduct a research on waste management solutions.

The LWMC had digitized all it’s fleet and was using AI to optimise it with the help of LUMS, he added.
The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) was also engaged in developing an application to manage the large scale staff based on geofencing and face recognition, he said.

“We have removed over 1,200 ghost employees from the Company after incorporating IT based solutions. Revenue collection has improved from Rs 2 crores to Rs 21 crores by use of technology,” he said.

The LWMC has developed a model for proposing proper charges for waste collection as at present it takes nominal charges of Rs 50 from a commercial enterprise like shop after a month and a tipping fee of Rs 700 per tonne for dumping waste at LWMC, Babar said.

The Company with the cooperation of all universities is working on the smart dumpsters or bins that can gauge waste level or stink to be collected through a tech based solution, he added.
The Company also introduced a fine regime of Rs 100 on littering during PSL and it had also developed an application and hand held devices to fine on spot.
The Local Government Act has the provisions of fine on littering, he told the journalists.
“We are working with ONVI for generating jet fuel and petrochemical products from our waste
We have floated an EOI with the Punjab Power Development Company for a feasibility of 50MW energy production through 3000 tonnes waste,” he said.

During the second visit, Mr. Bilal Business Head of Green Earth Recycling briefed the journalists that the Company used to export plastic benches to Germany and in 2004 it decided to further scale up it’s production by introducing new variety of recycled products.
The facility of the company could recycle 450 tonnes of plastics and 100 tonnes of plastics per day.
The International Tetra Pack owns Green Earth as the first company to give solutions to tetra pack recycling.

The Company was also producing manhole covers and some 350 have been installed at Lahore’s roads that were made of plastic waste and none of it has been stolen.
He informed that the company was selling wood pulp for Rs 100 per kg that was extracted from a tetra pack that has six layers; four of plastics, one aluminum and one of paper.
There is no chemical used during processing and segregation of plastics during recycling.
The machinery used by the Company was initially from Germany then it was imported from China and Taiwan and mostly rely on China but now it was focussing on indigenisation.

The Company also creates staple fibre from plastic bottles whereas wastage of plastic recycling is reused for making other products.
For example, plastic made washroom and kitchen to be developed as a water, snow and pest proof makeshift nonconcrete structure and it comprised of 95% recycled material.

During the third visit to Lasani Fibre Industries, the journalists were informed about recycling of PET plastic from bottles, processing of extracted PET into fibre and it’s further conversion into usable fibre.

Lasani Fibre Industries is one of the leading companies of the country manufacturing regenerated, recycled or carded polyester fiber through pet bottle. Last year, it recycled more than 18000 metric tonnes of PET bottle which is equivalent 6 million bottles.
It is one of the collection site of Pepsico factories and is also working with Coca-cola, Nestle and others.
The Company was making 32 products from PET bottles and had the capacity of 55 tonnes a day of polyester fiber production.
Some 11,000 tonnes of PET bottles have been recycled for PepsiCo from January 2023 to July 2023.
In Pakistan, 170,000 Mt bottles per year were produced for manufacturing PET bottles for beverages industry.

This enterprise is based on research and development and after every three months it needs to produce new products which is a labour intensive work, an official of the Industry said.

The authorities from both public and private sector unanimously identified the scavengers as the unregulated part of the economy that need to be brought under a certain legal cover for a streamlined circular economy as recycling was a capital intensive business demanding a regulated regime.

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