Bisleri’s push for plastic recycling

Bottles for Change is an ongoing effort from Bisleri to create awareness and educate citizens about the importance of recycling plastic

Bisleri bottle for change

Plastic waste is a severe crisis and it needs to be addressed. A plastic bag takes 10 to 20 years to degrade, while a plastic bottle takes almost 500 years. And even if it’s gone, its remnants remain.

According to the latest reports, China has joined the growing movement of more than 120 countries pledging to ban single-use plastics. The number one producer of plastic waste in the world has decided to outlaw the production and sale of non-degradable bags by the end of 2020 in major cities (and everywhere by 2022), as well as single-use straws by late 2020.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wishes to put a complete ban on single-use plastic by 2022. However, due to economic slowdown and rising unemployment, the Indian government is going slow when it comes to imposing a blanket ban. On a state level, we are seeing progress and with the dawn of the new decade, Kerala has decided to put a plastic ban in effect. Out of 29 states, 25 of them already have banned single-use plastic.

While there is an ongoing debate about whether a complete plastic ban without proper planning is a PR stunt, brands have realised that they can’t ignore their responsibility. Patagonia has been a champion brand which has been concerned about the planet for decades now. It was the first brand to decide in the ’90s that it would manufacture fleece from recycled plastics.

Dove has decided to switch to 100% recycled plastic bottles in North America and Europe. Adidas has decided more than 50% of all polyester uses in products will be recycled. And by 2050 achieve climate neutrality.

Last year Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri challenged other business leaders to join the movement of reducing carbon footprint and save the world.

Bisleri in India has been serious when it comes to recycling plastic. The brand that promises to deliver safe drinking water in plastic bottles started “Bottles for Change” in 2017. The aim has been to create awareness and educate citizens about the importance of recycling plastic.

According to Anjana Ghosh, Director of Marketing and OSR, Bisleri International, the idea behind the initiative is to “be the change you want to see” and to lead by example by disposing and recycling plastic responsibly.

“Plastic is not bad. How you dispose of plastic is bad.”

Plastic is not bad? Ignoring the statement for a while, in the past 3 years, the brand has collected more than lakh bottles and recycled 3035 tonnes of plastic. According to reports last year the program has conducted over 200 plastic recycling awareness and collection drives and workshops in corporate offices, housing societies, schools, colleges, and other institutions, malls, festive & social gatherings, events, etc.

With over 4,800 tonnes of plastic recycled by Bisleri, Bottles For Change Programme has reached out and successfully engaged 15 lakh people, 600 housing societies, 150 corporates, 400 hotels and restaurants, 200 schools with 3 lakh number of students who have actively supported and joined the initiative.

More than a corporate initiative, society should acknowledge that plastic waste is a severe problem. The mindset has to change and to make it happen the program has been associating itself with on-ground activities. For the recently concluded 17th edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon, Bisleri joined hands with the event to get the participants involved in plastic recycling and contributing towards a cleaner environment.

According to a company release, the brand placed 20-25 sets of 3 bins. The participants can choose to throw the used plastic bottle in one of the bins with each bin signifying the product made out of plastic recycling. Additionally, the brand introduced a mobile app for citizens of Mumbai which aims to bring the citizens and Plastic Collecting Agents under one roof.

On Republic Day, the brand hosted a play “Nukkad Nayak” to share the message of plastic recycling and correct disposal of plastic on the streets of Mumbai.

During Christmas last year, it associated with the churches in Mumbai and installed plastic collecting bins and placed plastic recycled benches. The initiative was kick-started with Mount Mary Church and thereafter it installed bins at Our Lady of Health of Velankanni Church, St. Michel Church and St. Francis Xavier’s Church in Mumbai.

On digital, the initiative has a cool website that educates you about recycling, the program, and how societies/schools/colleges can join the movement. However, I don’t understand the need to build a mobile app to locate collecting agents. The feature could have been implemented with the help of Google Maps and integrated on the existing website.

Besides all the on-ground associations and partnerships are a great move to build the cause. For instance, the association with Tata Mumbai Marathon of dropping the bottles in one of the cans and winning recycled goodies is a smart move but why are these details missing from the website. Posting them on social media is momentary, it will stay on your website forever.

Bisleri is not the only brand in India that is running such an initiative. The Body Shop, for example, is encouraging customers to return empty plastic packaging in strokes for recycling. The brand is also supporting the waste pickers community locally by purchasing 250 tonnes of community trade recycled plastic to use in 250 ml haircare bottles. Amazon is already working on reducing the usage of single-use plastic and optimising boxes/recycling. Zomato will soon launch an online marketplace to procure eco-friendly packaging.

But are enough plastic bottles ending into the recycled bins and also in the right recycled bins? Typically, 50% of what you put in your recycling bin is never recycled. It’s sorted and thrown out,” said Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, a recycling company. This is partly due to user error, a common problem that occurs when people place unrecyclable materials into recycling bins.

In India, we have started developing the habit of dispensing trash into bins. Now we have to build the habit of segregating dry and wet waste and also dumping them into the right bin. Both awareness and hard measures like complete ban are required.

For now “Bottles for Change” is an encouraging initiative from Bisleri which it should expand. Because there is more to be done in Mumbai itself.