Leading the way to sustainable plastic waste management
Itombi from Imphal, Manipur, who runs a plastic recycling plant, dreams of minimizing plastic waste in the entire Northeast region.
“People used to laugh at me, seeing me collecting plastic waste but now the laughter has turned into admiration,” Sadokpam Itombi, who runs the first-ever plastic recycling plant in Manipur said in an exclusive interview to the Imphal Free Press.
Itombi of Sagolband Sadokpam Leikai from Imphal has been recycling plastic waste since 2007 and reusing the matter to make flower pots, pipes, bottles and other items, which he sells them.
Incidentally, rag pickers digging in waste dumps inspired Ibombi to plunge into recycling waste, he told the Imphal Free Press, when asked how his inspiring journey began.
The public invariably depends on plastics for their needs and neglects them once they have been utilized, not realizing that the same plastics can be recycled and utilized again, he said.
“Plastic has become so much a part of our lives. It is a toothbrush made of plastic that we used to brush our teeth first thing in the morning. Therefore, how to dispose of plastic and recycle them are important aspects of plastic waste management. This is the only way forward and a sure mechanism to reduce scattering of plastic waste,” said the plastic recycling man.
In the effort to reduce plastic wastes around, he has been inviting people in the state to bring plastic waste to his factory in exchange for flowerpots that his recycling plant manufactures.
Itombi’s recycling plant currently receives two-three tonnes of wastes on a daily basis. The waste consists of polythene bags, plastic bottles, parts of electronic items and other plastic wastes. He said he contacted rag pickers from other districts and voluntary organisations involved in minimizing plastic wastes.
Different agencies dealing in rag picking delivered the waste with a charge of Rs.15 per kilogram, he informed, adding that Churachandpur districts supplied the majority of the wastes.
So far he has received wastes from the valley districts but has the vision to cover all other districts of the state. The wastes collected is kept in the factory before workers picked the recyclable items where they are cut into pieces using machines, which is further converted in granules before the final product.
“If we’re to minimize plastic use, it is for each and every one of us to take the responsibility to reduce plastic waste,” he said.
Ibotombi pointed out that lack of knowledge of recycling is what set the developed and the underdeveloped world apart.
“Even though the per capita use of plastic was 109 kilo per head in developed countries like Japan as per the 2015 census, there was hardly any plastic waste scattered in their rivers and their surroundings. Compared to this figure, Manipur that has a plastic usage rate of 9 kilos per head, plastic wastes are scattered everywhere,” he said.
Currently, Itombi’s SJ Plastic Agent employs more than 40 people and supplies finish products such as flowerpots, mineral water bottles and pipes in the state and Guwahati in Assam.
“My products are cheaper and better in quality than products from other states. The only problem is that the supply is falling significantly short of the existing demand,” said Itombi who dreams of minimizing plastic waste in the entire Northeast region.
“I may not get enough profit now as my plant can just about sustain my workers. But the plant gives me immense satisfaction knowing that I’m contributing to minimizing plastic waste in the world,” said Itombi.
Itombi’s plastic recycling plant, which was set up after acquiring a bachelor degree in Computer Application does not produce any waste as the wastes are recycled in the factory and those which cannot be recycled are exported outside, the plastic man added.