Recycled Tetra Pak cartons turned into benches and desks

Go Green with Tetra Pak’s initiative in Mumbai

Tetra Pak
Go Green with Tetra Pak logo

In a developing, low income and highly populated country like India, segregation and proper disposal of waste is a big challenge. The waste, especially packaging waste, either ends up in landfill or as litter. Monisha Narke, founder and chief executive officer of Are You Reducing Reusing Recycling (RUR) Greenlife, a Mumbai-based NGO, is trying to address this pressing issue of waste disposal and recycling. For Narke, accumulation of waste in public places and roadsides was always a point of concern.

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Products made from Tetra Pak recycled cartons

RUR Greenlife has tied up with Tetra Pak India, Sahakari Bhandar and Reliance Smart & Fresh stores to run the initiative ‘Go Green with Tetra Pak.’ The aim is to encourage citizens to exercise their responsibility as consumers to deposit used paper-based Tetra Pak cartons for recycling at various collection centers across Mumbai, including those at 44 Sahakari Bhandar, Reliance Fresh & Reliance Smart stores. The program, which started in 2010, has over the years become a success when it comes to participation of the community.

“The key objectives were to spread awareness that Tetra Pak cartons were fully recyclable, provide convenient locations for collection of cartons and incentives to customers to get to respond,” says Narke.

Sahakari Bhandar and Reliance Smart and Reliance Fresh ensure that shoppers (wherever they may be) are made aware of the program and given access to collection points to help bring back as many used cartons as possible.

The success of the program is reflected in the collection of Tetra Pak cartons, which has touched 20 lakhs since 2010. In 2016 alone, under the Go Green with Tetra Pak program, 500,000 cartons were collected for recycling and Narke expects the number to rise to 650,000 this year.

“It was about like-minded organizations coming together for a common cause. I remember back in 2010, our recycler introduced us to Monisha who in turn knew Vinay Adhye of Sahakari Bhandar. So, it was this four-way partnership; we brought our NGO collection partner into the picture and that effectively closed the recycling loop. The first time we did a project together was around World Environment Day on 6 June 2010. We got such an enthusiastic response that we decided to do it year-round and in a sustained way across the city,” says Jaideep Gokhle, communications director, South Asia Markets, Tetra Pak.

Giving back to the community

An important aspect of the program is to give back to the community. Under ‘Carton le Aao, Classroom Banao’ initiative, 250 school desks have been donated to various schools while under ‘Bin Se Bench Tak’ initiative, 80 garden benches have been donated. These desks and benches are made of recycled Tetra Pak cartons. One garden bench is made from 6,500 Tetra Pak cartons in about two weeks while it takes 4,500 cartons to make a desk.

The recycling of cartons into sheets is done by a Palghar-based company called Delux Recycling. The cartons are shred into pulp, which is compressed using heat and then cooled to form a material stronger than plastic and comparable to wood. This material is then sent to RUR’s factory in Umargaon where the desks and benches are made. “This is a fine example of partnership and collaboration— an idea initiated by the private sector, supported by the waste and recycler community and warmly embraced by the citizenry,” says Gokhle.

Venturing beyond Mumbai

The success of ‘Go Green with Tetra Pak’ in Mumbai has prompted Narke to take the initiative to Pune. To begin with, a pilot project has been initiated in the city. Plans are also afoot to take it to cities like Delhi and Bengaluru.“We need certain amount of volumes of cartons for the program to be viable. We will see how the Pune pilot progresses,” she concludes.

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