Upcycling efforts towards single-use-plastic-waste, the perils

Sunglasses, shoes, designer bags and much more is being made using single use plastic waste.

It’s some really good innovation being done on ground to up-cycle all of this plastic waste. In the recent months, though, I am noticing a rather worrying sentiment. I have come across situations where people seem to feel less guilty buying that pack of Lays chips or that Bisleri water bottle because there’s soo much of up cycling happening anyways.

I am writing only to bring this into our awareness that all this innovation is meant to only help temporarily with managing waste that is already generated. None of this should be seen as a permanent solution for us to continue generating single use plastic waste. So we still need to make efforts towards reducing / stopping this waste generation and eventually eradicating this waste.

I guess these are perils of seeing waste that is unwanted in the first place as an input material for a value chain. So one must have this clarity that these value chains are only means to address waste that is already generated while we continue to make efforts to reduce and finally eliminate this waste.

Took this pic yesterday as I was driving back to Nilgiris from Mysore at the forest check post. Nilgiris is a single use plastic-free district so at the check post, vehicles are checked for any single use plastic and removed. They collect a huge pile everyday.


Upcycling also seems to sometimes not take into account the lifecycle of certain materials. Example -

  1. PET can be recycled into PET 5 to 7 times before it is not possible to do so anymore.
  2. PET being recycled into fabric (https://materialdistrict.com/material/pet-textile/) ends it lifecycle and can’t be recycled into anything else post that. There is also risk of micro-plastics.

The 2nd approach invariably leads to landfill accumulation at the end of lifecycle. I don’t know how much understanding exists of comparing 1 v/s 2.

We’ll need more and more work in promoting refusing and reusing :slight_smile:


@warrior_vishal request if you can enlighten us.

Yes, upcycling is not a scalable or sustainable solution. At best, it is a ‘feel good’ or an exhibition solution. The quantity and quality of waste being generated, the toxicity of the materials involved, and the composite nature of materials complicate the situation.