#GreenBasics Recycling In India – All You Need To Know


Image Source: Pixabay

Why Should I Recycle?

Here’s why – our landfills are already overflowing and polluting both air and groundwater. This, when almost 60-70 percent of our waste can be recycled easily. It takes half the energy to recycle paper instead of creating it from the start, and you can help save at least 17 trees when you help recycle one tonne of paper. Aluminium recycling takes 95 percent less energy than making new ones. This means lesser energy consumption which means lesser pollution. Lesser garbage dumps also mean better quality of living.

Can I Get Paid For Recycling? 

Yes, for some materials such as most metals, paper, and a few other things, there is a good resale value that you can get from your neighbourhood recycler. According to Suresh Prusty, a recycler in Cuttack, ‘Copper goes for around INR 350 per kg, aluminium is around INR 80 per kg, and iron goes for around INR 20 per kg.’ Alloys such as brass fetch good value too.

What Are The Things That I Can Recycle?

You can recycle paper (newspapers, ATM bills, printing paper), iron, aluminium (food cans, deodorant cans), glass bottles, copper (wires and electrical products), steel and also some forms of plastics. ‘Everything can be recycled today. Plastic scrap is converted to new buckets. Around 25 to 30 beverage cans (aluminium) can fetch you INR 80’ adds Suresh. All e-waste such as computers, phones and other electronic devices can be recycled too. It is a good practice to store everything and ask your recycler about it.


Glass can be endlessly recycled. Image Source: Flickr

Can Glass Be Recycled?

Yes, glass is endlessly recycled to produce new glass. Recycling one glass bottle saves energy equivalent to lighting a 100W bulb for four hours, or 0.4kWh. [1]

Is Plastic Recyclable? 

Some plastics are recyclable. PET bottles and polythene bags are crushed, shredded and transformed to clothes yarn, carpets, roads and even fuel. Used plastic bottles are finding good use in the construction of low cost houses too. Some plastics can be recycled into new plastic products as well. Usually you won’t get any scrap value for selling old plastic. But it is very important that you hand over plastic to the right recycler. And it is best to reduce and reuse before you recycle, specially in the case of plastics.


Image Source: Flickr

What Are The Different Types Of Plastic? How Are They Recycled? Is Polythene Recyclable?

Plastic primarily comes in seven different types. In some nations such as the US, UK, and few European countries, every plastic product is stamped with a number (1-7) denoting the type as follows:

1. PETE or PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – PET bottles are the most common clear beverage bottles and can be recycled into carpet, furniture, fibre, yarn, bags, etc.

2. HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) – HDPE plastics, marked 2, are the harder opaque plastics found in thicker plastic bottles such as juice bottles, shampoo, household cleaner bottles, tubs and jugs. These can be recycled into containers, furniture, bottles, pens, etc.

3. PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) – PVC or Vinyl, as it is popularly known, is used to make pipes, food wraps, medical equipment, doors and windows, etc. This is recycled into flooring, speed breakers, panelling, decks, and gutter covers.

4. LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) – LDPE is used to make squeezable bottles, bags, clothes, carpet, food wraps. It is recycled into garbage bins, panelling, can liners, tiles and envelopes.

5. PP (Polypropylene) – PP is used to make curd containers, sauce, syrup, and medicine bottles. These are recycled into lead battery cases, pallets, brooms, ice scrapers, etc.

6. PS (Polystyrene) – PS, otherwise known as Styrofoam used to make disposable cups, plates, meat trays, is infamous for not being easily recyclable. It can be converted to packaging and insulation material.

7. Other Plastics – This includes all other plastics such as polycarbonate (found in sunglasses) and other plastic resins. Such plastics are recycled into custom made products.


Waste Segregation At Source. Image Source: Pixabay

What Is Dry And Wet Waste?

Wet waste is mostly organic waste such as vegetable peels and other kitchen waste. Dry waste is paper, metal, glass,wood and other non-damp waste. If you segregate waste at the source, it is easier to handle at the waste treatment plants.

Can I Recycle Organic Waste At Home?

Yes, you can compost organic waste in your home. You need to store organic waste in an aerated bin with added soil. This converts into compost that can be used as manure for plants. The whole process takes from a few weeks to months depending on the process and materials used. Composting at home would reduce transportation related emissions and make your city cleaner.

What Metals Are Recyclable?

Most metals are recyclable. Iron, aluminium and copper are most commonly melted and recasted into new products. Aluminium recycling saves 95 percent energy over new smelting [2]. Copper (found in wire and electrical equipments) fetches a high value in the scrap market.


25-30 Aluminium Beverage Cans Can Fetch INR 80. Image Source: Author’s Own.

How Is Paper Recycled?

Water is added to paper and mixed to form pulp which is then pressed and dried to get recycled paper. The whole process saves around half the energy and water required for new paper.

Is Wood Recyclable?

Wood is essentially tree. Reuse it or bury it in the ground and it will safely decompose.

Are Batteries Recyclable?

There are many types of batteries and most are recyclable. Lead batteries used in automobiles are highly recyclable and account for one of the biggest recycling industries in the world. Deposits are scrapped off and lead is melted and re-casted into new battery cells. Household batteries (pencil AA, AAA and others) constitute a major portion of household metal waste. Batteries should be given to e-waste recycling experts. It is also better to use rechargeable batteries instead of single use ones. Older nickel cadmium cells were hazardous and were not safe to be disposed. Lithium batteries used in phones, laptops and other electronic devices are recyclable by e-waste companies.

What About Old Phones And Computers?

For electronic products, it is better to give them to e-waste companies that are equipped to handle these safely and ethically.


E-Waste Dump. Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

How Do Recycling Companies Do It?

According to Mujeeb Qadri, director of Z Enviro Industries, a recycling company headquartered in Hyderabad, ‘We dismantle e-waste and segregate metals, plastics and other components such as PCB and send them to the respective recycling processing units. For example, plastic is sent to plastic manufacturers and metals are sent to smelters. Every component such as motherboards, RAMs, hard disks, batteries from laptops and phones are recycled for precious metals such as gold, silver and aluminium too.’

What About Toxic Elements Such As Lead, Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium? How Are They Handled? 

Your neighbourhood recyclers (‘kabadiwalas’) are not equipped to handle toxic materials found in e-waste, and improper disposal of these elements can lead to severe water pollution. You should approach professional recyclers who send these toxic elements to TSDF (hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility).

How Can I Sell My Old Gadgets For Refurbishing Or Recycling?

You can use an online calculator on most recycling company sites such as Karma Recycling, Atterobay, ReGlobe, Z Enviro Industries through their site and get a quote of your product. ‘We have an app called “erase e-waste”, where one can simply upload the image with a small description of the product and their price expectation for the product, and then we go and directly pick it from their location paying the value for it’, says Abhijeet Baral, Business Development Manager of Z Enviro Industries.

How Huge Is E-Waste In India?

E-Waste disposal is one of the biggest problems in developing countries such as China and India. India is the 2nd largest market of cell phones and hence generates an equally huge amount of e-waste. ‘Flipkart, Tata sky, Coca-Cola and others supply their e-waste to us for recycling and refurbishing. We have recycled 470 MT of e-waste in a year, and scaled up our operations to Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata within the same time’ adds Baral.


E-Waste Handling At A Recycling Plant Image Source: Z Enviro Industries

Can I Know How Much Energy, Carbon, Trees Are Saved By Recycling A Particular Product?

You can use an online calculator to get an approximate value of carbon emissions reductions and its equivalent in terms of trees and gasoline saved, and plastic bottles and aluminium cans recycled.

What Are The Main Recycling Companies In India?

Atterobay, Earthsense, Ecoreco, E-Parishra, Z Enviro Industries are a few major players of recycling in India.

Reuse Or Recycle?

Reduce first, then reuse and finally recycle. Words to think about from our humble neighbourhood recycler, Suresh, ‘If you don’t use it, why buy so many things? Think before buying.’ Look for sustainable biodegradable options of the product, choose wood or metal over plastic. Live minimal, don’t forget to use a product till its end, and then recycle it.


[1] Standford University Buildings and Grounds Maintenance – Frequently Asked Questions: Glass Recycling

[2] EPA. “Common Wastes & Material”. Retrieved 27 April 2012.

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