When the raddiwallah gets picky about plastic

Not all the plastic, cardboard and packaging material that you get at home is collected by the waste-paper man. Stuff like oil sachets, wrappers of health drinks, cardboard casings of toothpaste and even single-use plastic covers are discarded by them.

“Some plastics just don’t find any takers. We don’t have enough space to store all the plastics and cardboards in our shops. If we don’t have enough volume, it is not even worth the transportation cost. What can we do with 100 grams of toothpaste covers? We need to locate a buyer for the stuff we get,” said S. Pon Sebastian, who has a shop in Thoraipakkam.

Few takers

Things like water hoses, thermocol, PVC pipes with paint on them, coloured glass and black-coloured plastics remain with them since not many buyers go for them.

“With coloured glass/plastic, the issue is buyers need the same colour to process them, and always in large quantities,” he explained. The waste-paper men sort and sell the stuff they collect from various homes to others, who further sort the waste and sell to recyclers, who have large facilities and manpower.

Apart from quantity of trash, there is also the issue of consumers expecting money for the trash they sell. “This may not be possible in all cases. Many people would rather throw the stuff into bins than let the waste paper man take it for free. Sometimes, this man might collect enough from several homes to get a decent volume,” explained Mathew Jose, founder, Paperman Foundation.

G. Krishnan, a resident of Palakkad, who has been actively participating in the plastic ban in that town, said that reduction in the use of plastics, especially packaging would help.

“We go to the local shop where stuff is packed in a newspaper. We take stainless steel containers to get biscuits from the bakery. And as far as packaging material is concerned, we collect them and when we get a certain volume, we give it to the waste-paper man,” he explained.

Mr. Mathew added that a system to segregate and collect various kinds of waste must be put in place. “There are people who recycle every kind of plastic waste. Extended producers’ responsibility plays a big role. At the end of the day, plastics makes things affordable and cannot be avoided. The government, companies and consumers have to take it upon themselves to manage the material,” he explained.

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