Reliance Industries is scouting for start-ups—global and domestic—who have cracked a way to treat waste and can help the company further its waste-to-energy and circular economy initiatives.
“We are looking to fund and are scouting around for all technology available for waste segregation, recycling and waste to energy. We are thinking about the bets we should be making in this regard," said Vipul Shah, chief operating officer, petrochemicals at RIL.
RIL, one of the largest recyclers of the PET (post-consumer) waste in India, converted about 2 billion waste PET bottles into fabric by 2018. Its current capacity of PET bottle recycling facility is being more than doubled to 5 million bottles in the next few years.
Shah said the firm has reviewed a few hundred applications from startups and is looking at a model that can be replicated.
“People have looked at scalable models but we are looking at what can be replicated. I would rather have four machines to convert waste to energy rather than just one large machine doing the work," said Shah.
RIL’s idea is to join hands with a startup and develop the intellectual property that will be owned jointly. “We’d want to give it to the country as a service from our end," said Shah.
Environmental damage, particularly to oceans, caused by the sheer volume of waste plastic is one of the pressing concerns facing our planet. Platforms such as Scrapo, the world’s largest plastic recycling marketplace, helps connect waste generators with those who want to recycle it.
Municipalities across India are trying to use technology to measure trash usage, robots that can collect trash and detect and sort items by material type and breakthroughs which will reduce landfill waste by 90%.
RIL said it has developed biodegradable polymers for packaging that perform as well as popular packaging polymers in terms of physical and mechanical properties.
“This development will reduce plastic waste generation and adverse environmental impacts," RIL said in its annual report for 2018-19.
Global annual waste generation will grow 70% between 2016 and 2050, the World Bank estimates. A.T. Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council in its predictions for 2019 said food waste still represents the largest share, but the rise of e-commerce is causing an exponential rise in cardboard and other packaging trash.
“In emerging markets, nearly 90% of waste is either openly burned or illegally dumped. And landfills contribute to significant greenhouse gas emissions. Recognition of the global trash crisis is rising, along with efforts to create a circular economy that more efficiently reduces, reuses, and recycles waste," AT Kearney said.
RIL has already recycled plastic waste into objects such as spectacles, park benches and fishing nets, and partnered Tetra Pak to run a “Go Green" initiative.
The company has three plastic-to-roads projects underway on a pilot basis. These initiatives have helped create a solution for the disposal of non-recyclable plastic waste. As a pilot project, 1.2 tonnes of plastic waste has already been used for the construction of 2,600 sq.m of road in Reliance Corporate Park, Navi Mumbai. Further, about 50 tonnes of plastic waste will be used at Nagothane manufacturing division for construction of 40km of road.
In its annual report, RIL said the PET business has involved end consumers in its recycling initiative. It encourages end consumers to deposit empty PET bottles at reverse vending machines installed at Reliance SMART stores, railway stations and various other locations.