The Ganges river is over 2,600 km long, starting from the Himalayas, and flowing through the plains of India and Bangladesh to eventually empty into the Bay of Bengal. It is a lifeline to 120 million people who live and work along its banks, and 400 million people who depend on it for water.
However, the Ganges is also among one of the global rivers shown to contribute 90% of land-based plastic waste to the ocean; it accumulates about 544,000 tons of plastic waste annually. In Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, an estimated 2,105 tons of plastic litter has the potential to enter the Ganges each year. Varanasi produces about 650 tons of municipal solid waste every day, a third of which is not collected and left in the environment.
That’s why the Alliance to End Plastic Waste is contributing funding, materials, logistics capabilities and technical expertise to Renew Oceans’ work in India. The Renew Ganga projects aims to create a circular local economy from collection of low-value plastic waste, and converting it into fuel to be used at local business, such as diesel for auto-rickshaws.
In 2019, about 50 tons of plastic waste were collected through the programme, and we aim to double that in 2020. This collected plastic waste was then converted into diesel using the first-ever ReFuel system.
Renew Ganga also reached out to over 1,000 community members in 2019, and introduced the world’s first reverse vending machine for soft plastics, called the Plastic Muncher. Members of the community were encouraged to feed the Plastic Muncher with their soft plastic waste, in exchange for credit which could be used in local businesses that benefited from the converted fuel. In 2020, we would like to ramp up our engagement activities to reach over 2000 people.