Waste Management Systems in Sundarbans (India) – a Cooperation of SOCEO gGmbH and the Röchling Foundation

Plastic waste pollution is one of the most urgent matters worldwide. Even in India, a country with one of the highest populations worldwide, the problem of plastic waste is growing. The Röchling Foundation therefore supports a project in the Sundarbans, one of the largest mangrove forests on earth south of Kolkata, to introduce a systematic collection, sorting and recycling of plastic waste. Aim is to not only to protect the environment but also improve the lives of the waste collectors involved.

The Sundarbans is a group of islands in the delta of the Ganges-Brahmaputra. It hosts a bioreserve, was elected UNSECO world cultural heritage and is a habitat of about 4.5 million people. There is no such thing as a systematic collection of plastic waste. Neither for tourists, nor for the ever-increasing number of inhabitants. This situation forces people to burn their plastic waste, bury it or throw it directly into the adjacent rivers. All this leads to it ending up in the sea as ocean plastic only a short time later. The consequences for the environment are devastating.

The project Plastic Waste Pollution in the Sundarbans of India started off in early 2018. A comprehensive study was carried out to determine the extent of plastic waste generated in two specific districts. The alarming result of an estimated 33-36 tons of plastic waste per month from the approx. 24,000 inhabitants illustrates the urgency of an intervention.

Therefore, the following action will take place: starting in autumn 2018, the plastic waste of the inhabitants of the two districts will be systematically collected by specially trained waste collectors, then taken to a collection point, sorted according to quality and then be sold. Through the organized recycling of the waste, the waste collectors can achieve a higher income. The collection point itself is run by a local NGO as a social enterprise to ensure economic sustainability even after the project has ended. Next year, possibilities for a sustainable recycling of the collected plastic waste on site will be discussed.

The project is implemented by the local organization SUN and accompanied by SOCEO gGmbH as technical consultant.