Eco Spindles, Sri Lanka’s largest plastics recycler equipped with one of only two plants in the world capable of creating polyester yarn directly from recycled PET plastic flakes, has significantly bolstered Sri Lanka’s recycling capabilities by creating an ecosystem for recycling within the country.
This year, the company has seen the culmination of its significant investments and efforts in setting up an efficient mechanism for the collection of plastics, creating a network of corporate partnerships and increasing consumer awareness.
These efforts collectively seek to raise Sri Lanka’s recycling rate of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastics from around 15% at present to 20% to 25% by the end of 2022.
“Recycling requires collaboration between diverse stakeholders, ranging from households to collectors to the private sector and beyond. Hence, Eco Spindles identified that creating a cohesive ecosystem for recycling is critical in laying a foundation for a culture of recycling in Sri Lanka. We have managed to bring the necessary stakeholders and build such a foundation to strengthen and expand recycling in the country,” explained Manoj Udawatte, CEO – Eco Spindles Recycling.
The company’s investments in recycling infrastructure enable Eco Spindles to collect approximately 6 million PET bottles monthly in Sri Lanka. This is expected to increase to more than 9 million PET bottles once the tourism industry recovers.
These PET plastics are collected through corporate and other partners, collectors and drop-off bins for consumers/households. Drop-off bins can be located using the ‘Waste 2 Value’ mobile app available on the Google Play Store and (Apple) App Store. Currently, there are more than 400 drop-off bins in the Western Province and 50 in other areas in Sri Lanka. By the end of 2022, Eco Spindles intends to more than double this network by having 700 drop-off bins in the Western Province and 300 in other areas of the country – bringing the total within the island to 1,000.
The company has also mobilized a network of collectors to obtain used PET bottles. Currently, more than 500 collectors are registered with the company. In addition to strengthening recycling, this provides an essential source of additional income to low-income groups – such as coastal communities– particularly since the company pays the highest rate in the market for PET bottles.
Eco Spindles’ network of corporate and other partners also play a vital role. For example, the company has placed large metal bins (able to hold 1,500 PET bottles) at its own expense or through the support of partners at locations such as schools, hotels, restaurants, public parks, police stations and bus stands. In instances where the partner bears the cost of the bin, Eco Spindles passes on the saving to the collectors by increasing their rate of remuneration. An external partner has been contracted to ensure that the bins operate at the optimum level.
The company has also set up 3 Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) centres, while the 4th MRF centre is expected to be opened in Pelawatte by March 2022. These MRF centres collect multiple forms of waste such as aluminium, glass, paper and other forms of plastic waste, help to develop and strengthen the regional waste collection network in the area and process the collected PET bottles. Hence, they also provide additional sources of income to the MRF operators, since other types of waste can be sold to corporates which utilise waste as raw materials in their manufacturing.
Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka supports the two MRF centres in Ratnapura and Panadura as a corporate partner, while the other is located in Negombo. In addition, Eco Spindles has a network of 19 PET processing centres around the country. These sites compress PET bottles into dense blocks before they are transported to the Eco Spindles recycling facility in Horana.
In line with these developments, which will increase the amount of PET bottles collected for recycling, Eco Spindles is also further boosting its capacity to produce yarn from recycled PET. While currently, the capacity is around 1.95 million PET bottles monthly, this will be more than doubled to 4.5 million PET bottles by March 2022, with the commissioning of a new yarn plant.
While these developments have laid a solid foundation for the recycling of PET bottles in the country, further expansion of these efforts require assistance from other stakeholders. Increasing awareness among households – particularly on aspects like segmenting waste for recycling – is vital. It is also crucial to improve the design of consumer products to enable the entire product to be recycled. To do so, the Government’s support is required on legislation and regulations.