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Roofing and composite boards made from waste plastic

If we are asked to list down single-use plastic items in our day to day life, we would possibly identify plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and water bottles. This list generated by the common man is also reflected in policies laid by countries across the world.

A common and costly oversight is the single-use plastic waste generated by the plastic industry. In fact, this commodity is the second-highest in global waste composition. 40% of the global plastic produced is for the packaging industry, fuelling a boom in production from 2m tonnes in the 1950s to 380m tonnes in 2015. By the end of 2015, 8.3bn metric tonnes of plastic had been produced – two-thirds of which has been released into the environment and remains there.

Multi-Layered Plastics (MLP) has become one of the favourite packaging materials in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and the packaged- food industry. These MLPs are used once and discarded – making these single-use plastics. Multi-Layer Plastic (MLP) is any material used for packaging and having at least one layer of plastic as the main ingredient in combination with one or more layers of materials such as paper, paper board, polymeric materials, metalised layers or aluminium foil, either in the form of laminate or co-extruded structure.  MLPs are a favourite material for the food industry as it protects sensitive food products and hence longer shelf life. 

On average, plastic can take up to a thousand years to decompose, choking drains and river systems, contaminating soil and water, while damaging human and animal health, as well as the environment. India’s consumption of polyolefin for film and sheet is projected to increase from 2.5 million MT in 2014 to 4.2 million MT in 2020, an average annual growth rate of 9.4%. Currently neither the industry nor the government has found a suitable replacement/alternative for multi- layered packaging and thus some experts feel that complete ban of this kind of packaging may seem like a hasty decision.

Multi layered plastics (MLP) such as potato wafer packet, chocolate wrapper, wrappers for ready to eat foods and pharma products are criticised for their lack of recyclability, leading to littering of our cities and oceans. Source

The lightweight and small size of MLPs make them almost omnipresent, easy to throw away but difficult to collect. The eventual end of this material is therefore as litter,  in a landfill or waterways where it is often mistaken as food by some animals. The recycling process of MLP in itself is cumbersome because the plastic has to be cleaned thoroughly after it is collected and then separated based on its type. . Hence, one of the only ways to process MLPs in order to get it out of sight is incineration of waste to energy plants. The incineration plants are sold to the public as a better alternative to landfills.

However, incineration releases dioxins and one-fourth of the incinerated trash remains as toxic fly ash which ends up in the landfills. The current solutions that are being touted to treat the fly ash are to use it in making paver blocks or use it for road construction. But organisations like Ricron, a Gujarat-based company are solving the root cause of a problem by recovering  non-recyclable multi-layer plastic trash and using its proprietary technology to convert this waste into sheets of different thicknesses that are then used as a building material. 

The Gujarat-based company today recycles 500 tons of MLPs each day. Source

Ricron Panels was started by Rahul Chaudhary in 2014 to recycle multilayer plastic into sheets that are a potential substitute for plywood, cement and corrugated metal sheeting, Ricron Panels have a lot going for them; they’re corrosion-proof, heat resistant, fire retardant, termite-proof, and waterproof. Apart from the recycled sheet the company gets an increasing demand for roof sheets. Conventional sheets made of tin or plastic last anywhere between six to eight years but sheets made at Ricron last for double the time. 

The company currently has 2 SKUs :

  • RICRON – PLAIN PANELS/SHEETS: Smooth sheets made from recycled MLPs. Let’s look at a comparison between Ricron panels and plywood sheets.Ricron Panel products do not use wood and are thus not susceptible to termite erosion.Ricron panels can withstand heat up to 105 degrees celcius and are fire retardant making them suitable for residential applications.

Ricron panels have a density of 1.06gm/cm3 compared to the 0.79gm/cm3 of plywood.Their compressive strength is 39.12N/mm2 which is higher than that of plywood(32.28N/mm2). Plywood absorbs water at 8-12% compared to ricron panels which are almost water resistant and absorb water at 0.25%. The sheets are a recipient of the Green Pro Certification Award, presented by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). 

A great cost-effective substitute for plywood and MDF in numerous industrial and commercial applications.

  • RICRON ECO-ROOF SHEETS:A great cost-effective substitute for Cement, GI Metal, Coated Roofing Sheets with applications across various domestic, industrial and commercial purposes.The sheets provide excellent durability and strength with minimal or no damage from rusting, cracking, tearing etc.

These residential housing roof sheets can be used for housing roof, gazebo roofing, balcony roofing, pet house, cabin roofing, awning over doors and windows, parking roofs, tree house roofing etc. Ricron Eco-roof sheets are waterproof, rust proof and termite proof which substantially increases the life of the roof. The consistency of the composite leads to very high quality and strength. Ricron Eco-roof sheets are light weight high tensile sheets which lower transportation issues and keep your roofing maintenance free.

The wavy construction paves the way for increased strength across smaller surface areas. Source

The other applications of the product are as paver block pallets, portable cabins, fly ash brick pallets, Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) (a lightweight, precast building material), shuttering material and flooring. As one of the largest MLP recyclers in India, Ricron has diverted approximately 80,000 tons of waste from the environment over the last eight years.

In 2020 alone, the company recycled 1,900 tons of plastic – the equivalent of more than 38 million toothpaste tubes–saving over 1,200 trees from being used by the building industry. The company is also a zero-waste discharge company, meaning there is no waste from its operations as all materials are recycled and reused. In terms of pricing, the construction estimate for using ricron panels is approximately Rs125/sqft. The company also encourages their customers to recycle instead of discarding the panels after use , and offer to buy ricron panels back at 30% of the invoice value.

Ricron panels are perfect for shuttering, it is an excellent substitute for Film Faced Plywood due to its 0% water absorption nature and anti-termite property. Source

Plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product. It means that by 2050 plastic will be responsible for up to 13% of the total “carbon budget” – equivalent to 615 coal-fired power plants. US-based personal care corporation Kimberly-Clark India has launched ‘Project Ghar’ in partnership with the Plastics for Change India Foundationto deliver sustainable housing facilities to on-ground waste collectors in India.

Over a period of six months, a total of 30 tonnes of single-use and multi-layered plastic will be recycled to construct 15 houses in the Hubli-Dharwad region of Karnataka, the company said in a statement.Once successful, the project will be extended to several other parts of the country as well.In the partnership, channel partners like Ricron Panels will collect and convert non-recyclable plastic waste into sheets that are used as the building material for these houses.

So when it comes to solving plastic pollution, addressing multilayered plastics is one of the most important challenges to work on. If we can do it right and prioritise meaningful changes instead of well-intentioned (but ineffective) action — this core issue will be one of the crucial milestones for solving problems with plastic waste for good!

The houses built during the project ghar partnership will be lighter and more durable than cement sheets or ply, as they can resist wind speeds of up to 120 km per hour, have no heating issues, and provide durability for close to 30 years. Source


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