Need for Waste Paper Recycling in India: How Can It Be Done?

Waste paper recycling in India
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Waste paper recycling in IndiaWe have already reached the mid of the first month of 2015, but have you made your New Year resolution? Let us do something new this time. Let us make a New Year resolution for the society this time. The next time when you throw away that piece of paper by crumpling it, just spare yourself a minute and give a thought. Do you really need to throw that piece of paper or can it be used for some other purpose?

In India more than 550 mills make use of waste paper as the main raw material for making paper, paperboard and for production of newsprint. Waste paper is collected indigenously and also imported. In this country, every year around three million tonnes of waste paper is recovered, which is only about 20% of the total. When we compare this with other countries, the amount is comparatively very low. For instance, developed countries like Germany recovers 73% waste paper, Sweden 69%, Japan 60%, USA 49% etc.

Imports of waste paper increasing 

Indian mills have to import waste paper because of lack of indigenous collection. As a result, there has been a significant rise in the import bill over the years. In 1980, the import of waste paper was US$5.1 million which rose to US$ 1 billion in 2011. India imports around 4.0 million tonnes of waste paper every year. This is not a good picture for the Indian economy.

Why do we need to recycle paper?

Let us start harnessing waste paper at home. There are many reasons for this:

  • Paper is the most essential renewable raw material for the paper industry and as citizens we can contribute to a certain extent towards imports reduction.
  • Recycling of paper is very important from the environmental point of view.
  • It is to be noted that cost of disposing any materials is many times more than recycling those materials. That includes paper too. One of the most valuable resources on this earth which is easily found and cheaply re-used is paper.
  • One main problem that we are facing today is pollution and one big cause of pollution is deforestation. Paper is obtained from trees. That means, we cut trees to get paper. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and smoke, which we breathe out in the atmosphere. Without the trees, this carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere which results into pollution, global warming and climate change. So more the number of trees in the country, the better is the environment.
  • Use of energy is much less in recycling paper than making new paper.
  • According to research studies, recycling one tonne of waste paper can help in about 70% raw material saving along with coal saving of 60%, energy 43% and water 70% which are used in the making of paper from wood.

Paper demand rising in India

The upward trend in literacy rate and increase in industrial development have led to an increase in demand for paper every year. The consumption of paper and paper boards in India is estimated to be almost 100 lakh tons at present. Almost all types of paper mills in the country are increasing their production capacity and renovating their plants. It has been estimated that the demand for paper in the country by 2025 would be close to 2.5 crore metric tons, which is actually not a very easily achievable task to meet for the Indian paper industry. The reason being there has been a continuous decrease of indigenous raw materials. Considering the ill-effects of deforestation and pollution, it has become very necessary on the part of the people to find out ways to produce and save paper.

Some problems in collection

In spite of the fact that the Government, paper mills, NGOs and other agencies are concentrating on development of collection and recycling programme, with focus on the environment, there are some grey areas in the collection of waste paper in India

  • No effective collection mechanism for waste paper from offices and households.
  • Use of newspaper for packaging.
  • Role of municipalities is not efficient in the current waste management network.
  • Lack of large space for storage, sorting of waste paper.
  • No proper coordination between the informal sector and the main supply chain of waste paper to paper industry.

What can be done?

So far, in India, waste paper recycling is done by the unorganized and informal sector, which constitutes the kabaris, scavengers, middlemen and the business houses. Collection of waste paper is no doubt a State’s collective responsibility but the Union Government is also involved in studying policy options for improving the collection and recycling of post-consumer paper or waste paper in India.

A proper collection and recycling of waste paper can definitely help in reducing the generation of municipal solid wastes. Some options that can be considered are as follow:

  • Formulating a policy on management of waste paper in accordance with e-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011.
  • The guidelines and procedures for the producers, collection centres, dismantlers and the recyclers should be formulated by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
  • The collection centres should be run by the municipalities, but the work should be handed over to the private companies.
  • The Government should at the same time announce incentives to municipalities to meet segregation targets.
  • Proper locations should be allocated for development of sorting centres or warehouses for sorting, baling and storage of waste paper.
  • Regulations should be made to compulsorily use shredders by all offices, educational institutes and the shredded waste paper should be collected through contractual agreements on an annual basis.