Turning plastic waste into school chairs

Filipinos use around 212 million sachets and shopping bags every day. These numbers reflect the country’s dependence on single-use plastics. The situation has not been improving in the Philippines as the country was tagged as a major contributor to the global plastic waste crisis. Advocates said that the problem is exacerbated by firms that sell their products in cheap, disposable packaging.

Envirotech Recycling Inc., an initiative in Davao City in Mindanao, aims to lessen the plastic waste that would otherwise end up in the country’s oceans or landfills. To achieve its goal, the company collects single-use plastics from communities and big companies and recycles them into useful items such as school chairs. These products, according to Envirotech, are made of 100 % recycled plastic. The company’s President and CEO, Winchester Lemen, said that they were able to process around 2.5 million kilograms (kg) of waste this year in their five plants located across Luzon and Mindanao islands.

“We are advocating to reduce plastic waste, and at the same time, create livelihood programs for everyone. And (we are) helping the Earth heal,” Lemen said, explaining one Envirotech school chair was made from around 20 to 30 kg of plastics.  He claimed that his company was the only one in the country that combined all sorts of waste in its plants. “So, name it— sachets, plastic cups, sando bags, candy wrappers, Styrofoam— we mix it up all together in our plant,” he explained, adding that the finished products proved to be durable as they could not be broken. Based on Waste Ed’s social media video, the plastics that Envirotech collects are shredded, crushed, sorted, melted, molded, and assembled.  Lemen said that workers are equipped with safety gear, and the plants have buffers that filter out the steam or smoke produced during the melting process. Aside from chairs, Envirotech has ventured into making benches, trash bins, and pots, among other functional items.

Chairs and benches made by Envirotech. Image courtesy of Winder Recycling

Dr. Enrico Paringit, the Executive Director of the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development, welcomed Lemen’s initiative.

Although this recycling technology could be an answer to ongoing plastic waste problem for consumers and firms, environmentalist and co-convenor of War on Waste Negros Oriental, Merci Ferrer, thought otherwise. “No, it’s not a solution… it actually encourages companies to create more (plastics),” she said, adding that the initiative was only handling the problem “from the end of the pipe.” For her, it was important to consider the bigger picture. “We need to think of that on a bigger, broader environmental, sustainability issue. The toxicity of a certain material should be one of the top considerations,” Ferrer said, explaining that more studies should be done on the emissions brought about by melting plastics of different types.

Despite the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, Envirotech’s Lemen said that they had several projects in the pipeline for next year. One of them is the Envirohome, a housing project made entirely out of 3,000 kilograms of plastic waste, and it is scheduled to be rolled out by 2021.

SOURCE: Turning plastic waste into school chairs | One Earth



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