Synpack is a company that engages in a practice known as blown film extrusion which is used to manufacture polymer sheets. These polymer sheets are used to produce plastic films used by food packaging and pharmaceutical companies.
At the empty plot adjacent to the Synpack factory, in Phase-II of Peenya Industrial Area, is a plastic reprocessing plant. The plant has cost the company a little less than Rs 10 lakh. The significance and impact that this plant has on reducing the harm caused to the environment by the company, makes it worth every rupee spent.
The process of extracting polymer sheets leaves a residue. Obviously, being a by-product produced from plastic, the waste generated is harmful to the environment. This is where the plastic reprocessing plant comes in handy. Plastic reprocessing not only allows Synpack to cut down on its waste by 10-15 percent, it gives them an edge over competitors by allowing them to reprocess the waste into more packing plastic. Though, the packaging sheets produced after reprocessing are of a lower grade, and different from Synpack’s main product which cannot be used to package sensitive items like food and medicine, these sheets are sold to product packaging companies and e-commerce chains like Amazon and eKart, giving an additional source of revenue to the company.
This practice of waste reprocessing, by Synpack is a part of a new concept of environmental-friendly manufacturing process known as Green Manufacturing.
Green Manufacturing can be defined as a method of manufacturing that uses renewable or non-fossil fuel energy, minimizes waste, promotes safe production, and limits the environmental impact.
Generally, Green Manufacturing is a practice that is implemented in four stages. First, using green sources of energy – solar, thermal, wind energy to power the factories. Second, developing and manufacturing environment friendly products and manufacturing techniques – eco-friendly product design, producing recyclable goods, application of ISO 14001 and Environmental Management Systems (EMS). Third, ensuring an optimum production process which ensures employee safety. And lastly, reducing waste production/making waste disposal less harmful for environment – also known as Green Chemistry (reducing release of toxins and harmful solvents).
A review paper on Green Manufacturing by ID Paul, GP Bhole and JR Chaudhari for the 3rd International Conference on Material Processing and Characterisation states: “There is a need of new manufacturing process i.e. Green Manufacturing which is a suitable sustainable development strategic. The cost of energy and resources are constantly increasing due to rising demand and limited supply. Furthermore, price trends can hardly be forecasted, so companies aim to successfully produce within large price ranges of energy and resources. Green Manufacturing also calls for the use of Green Science the application of one or more of environmental science, green chemistry, environmental monitoring and electronic devices to monitor, model and conserve the natural environment and resources, and to curb the negative impacts of human involvement. The term is also used to describe sustainable energy generation technologies such as photovoltaics, wind turbines, bioreactors, Biofiltration, Bioremediation, Desalination etc.”
The city of Bengaluru is home to many bustling industrial areas like Peenya and Kumbalgodu. These industrial areas house close to 6000 units of factories, processing plants and workshops, across a variety of sectors, ranging from metal plating to pharmaceutical research and development.
However, these industries, the ones in Peenya in particular, have been known to cause significant damage to the environment over the years.
“The Central Pollution Control Board undertook a survey to identify the 100 most polluted industrial areas in the country. The Peenya Industrial Area was ranked 24th in this survey. In Karnataka, Peenya is the most polluted industrial cluster,” informed Lokesh HK, Environmental Officer – Peenya, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board.
As per the norms set by the Central Pollution Control Board, industrial units in each state have to be categorized under different classes, based on the pollution threat they cause to the environment. The categories set are Red, Orange, Green, White, with Red being the most harmful and White the least. KSPCB’s website shows that out of 6600 industries in Bengaluru Urban district, 1210 fall under the Red category.
The Deccan Herald, in its report dated May 12, 2020, stated that out of 2,101 industries in Peenya, 334 industries fall under the Red category, which means they contribute the most to pollution. Apart from the Red category factories, 473 also fall under the Orange category industries.
Peenya Industrial Area’s propensity to pollute and contaminate its surrounding areas has been well documented in various studies. One such study, relating to the Peenya’s Water Quality Index (WQI) was conducted by National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad.
During the study, groundwater/surface water samples were collected from the Peenya Industrial Area and its surrounding localities, to ascertain the its quality. The water samples were analyzed for major ion and heavy metals like Hexavalent Chromium.
The results indicated that most of the groundwater samples collected had Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) concentration as high as 4000-6000 mg/L. The permissible TDS concentration according to WHO is 300-900 mg/L. The groundwater samples also contained contaminants like Chloride and Nitrate, with very high concentration of heavy metals such as Chromium, Hexavalent Chromium, Cobalt, Nickel, Zinc and Copper.
This problem of pollution by industries in Peenya is clearly caused due to its units not adhering to practices meant to reduce the harm caused on environment over a long period of time. “The Peenya Industrial Area is spread over 47 sq km, the founding architecture and design of which was laid out in the 20th century. So, clearly, the area was not designed keeping eco-friendly practices and pollution control in perspective,” said Shyam Chandran, Secretary, Peenya Industrial Association.
When seen through the lens of Green Manufacturing, a few of the big manufacturing units in the Peenya Industrial Area do adhere certain criteria and norms like employee safety but fare poorly when it comes to waste disposal and using green energy.
A majority of the manufacturing units in the area deal with small industrial parts and tools. The production of these tools requires basic safety gear like gloves and eye-protection glasses which these industries provide.
Some of the employees are also given training courses to ensure they operate the machinery properly.
Jayant Patra, a worker at Mission Technology, a manufacturing company that produces CNC and VMC pipes, informed that he was given a six-month long training course before he started working on-site. “I am a machine operator. I had to undergo a six month simulation course under a trainer to learn how to operate the machinery,” said Patra.
Patra also added that Mission Technology has provided all its workers with a health insurance policy to cover for any injuries caused to employees while working.
Employers also provide safety gear to their workers in Peenya.
“We have CMC machines to operate. For this, we have an ITI course for our employees. We also have safety eye gear for the workers working on our machines,” said Jagdish Kumar, HOD Manufacturing, Spraying Systems India Ltd, manufactures PVC pipes and plastic nozzles used in spraying systems.
Another manufacturing unit, Fricon Industrial Oils also provides safety equipment to its employees. “Our workers engage in the process of blending, so we give them gloves, eye glasses and rubber shoes. The process of blending takes place at high temperatures therefore we have to keep in mind the material used as protective gear – It should be light, but safe at the same time,” said Amrutesh, the factory manager.
Reducing the amount of waste, as well as ensuring the correct disposal of the waste is another key element of Green Manufacturing. This is an aspect which Peenya’s industries seem to struggle with.
Owing to the surface and water pollution caused by industries in Peenya, KSPCB and Peenya Industrial Association, in collaboration with the Karnataka government, planned to create a central sewage effluent treatment plant in 2018. However, no work has been carried out till now.
“The process is stuck due to problems with land acquisition. Getting land to build a plant that serves the entire industrial area is proving to be a challenge for the authorities,” said Shyam Chandran.
While a few of the big factories like ABB have their own treatment plants and are able to limit the environmental damage caused by their discharge, the smaller units are unable to do so.
Proper waste disposal also means an increase in the cost of production which many businesses want to avoid.
Ramesh S, the owner of Lathika Papers which manufactures paper bags, informed that trying to reduce the wastage of raw material during production leads to increased costs. Ramesh said: “We procure around 60 tonnes of raw paper from Delhi. Out of this, three to five tonnes get wasted during the process of manufacturing. “We produce 20 lakh bags in a month, if we try and optimize our process we might reduce the wastage and increase the production but we’ll also increase our costs. I’d prefer to save money.”
But a few firms have still managed to ensure that their waste disposal methods reduce the harm caused to environment.
Fricon Industrial Oils has mastered its oil blending technique to an extent where its waste disposal does not harm the environment. “We blend different types of oils in a way that does not produce any hazardous waste. As a result, we’ve been put in the Green category by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board,” said Amrutesh.
Similarly, Synpack has reduced the amount of hazardous waste produced by installing a plastic reprocessing plant. Nagaraj Nayak, the Quality Assurance Manager informed: “We get close to 10-15% of our total plastic production from the reprocessing plant. It gives a boost to our sales.”
In this criteria too, there is a clear difference between what bigger manufacturing units do and what the smaller ones do. On one hand, the micro and medium scale units which do not have huge energy demand, do not find it feasible to incur huge costs in implementing eco-friendly techniques/sources for getting energy. On the other, the bigger units have not applied these methods due to some reason or other.
“We use 860 units of electricity per month. This is nothing when compared to other big factories. Setting up solar panels will not be feasible for us,” said Amrutesh from Fricon Oils.
Spraying Systems India Ltd had initiated plans to set up a solar plant facility to power its factory but could not implement the project owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our concern towards employees has increased. We have spent money in providing them PPE kits, and sanitising the factory. Owing to the scale of expenditure required for solar energy, the renewable energy option has been stalled,” said Jagdish Kumar, HOD Manufacturing of Spraying Systems.
The Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board has also put guidelines in place that help industrial areas in being less harmful for the environment.
“Every industrial area is required to have 30-40 percent of its area reserved for tree plantations. This is to ensure they do not become concrete jungles. We also ensure that the industrial areas adhere to all National Green Tribunal norms. KIADB also ensure that the industrial areas have Effluent Treatment Plants to ensure that the waste disposed is less harmful for the environment,” said PK Pavitra, Chief Engineer of the KIADB.
Chandran from Peenya Industrial Area added that the KSPCB has started phasing out the Red category industries from Peenya.
“All Red category manufacturing units are asked to get environmental clearance from KSPCB. This clearance is usually given for a 5-year period. While the Green and White category units are exempted from all such requirements. Now, the KSPCB has started refusing extensions to these clearances. Polluting units are asked to implement measures to reduce their adverse impact, or are asked to move out of Peenya,” Chandran said.
Lokesh HK, the environmental officer of KSPCB in Peenya said: “We ensure that all units in the area do not flout the 3 basic laws: Water Act, 1974, Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1981, and Environmental Protection Act, 1984. We have devised a set of inspection guidelines, and based on them evaluate units on a regular basis.”
The Way Forward
Mumbai-based International Research Institute for Manufacturing (IRIM), to engage Indian manufacturers in green, eco-friendly practices, has been running the ‘India Green Manufacturing Challenge’ since 2014.
The IRIM brochure reads that the IGMC is a platform that is designed to recognise firms that have shown consistent progress in improving sustainability factors associated with a manufacturing facility.
“The green manufacturing challenge has been designed to incorporate management tools that shall engage and assist manufacturing organisations in their journey towards sustainability,” said Anand Louie, Director, IRIM.
The challenge evaluates a facility’s commitment and progress towards ‘Green Manufacturing’ based on a framework that considers various factors divided in four heads – Human, Inputs, Operations, Products. After evaluation, each manufacturing unit is given a score on the ‘Green Manufacturing Barometer’ between 200 to 800. Companies/units scoring above 700 get the gold tag, the ones scoring above 625 get a silver tag, and those with a score of 525 or more get a bronze tag.
Over the past editions, big companies like Reliance Industries Limited, JSW, Vedanta and Johnson & Johnson have participated in the challenge.
The goodwill associated with such challenges can be helpful in motivating manufacturing units towards following greener practices, and reduce the harm caused on the environment.
If present trends continue, Bengaluru’s air pollution level is expected to increase by 74% by 2030, a study by Central Board for Pollution Control revealed.
According to a Deccan Herald report, which states a Centre of Ecological Science (CES) of Indian Institute of Science (IISc) report, Bengaluru’s CO2 emission is 19,796.5 Gg (Gg, a unit of mass equal to one million kg), out of which 43% (8,608 Gg) is contributed by industries.
In order to ensure reduction in pollution levels, and promote trade and commerce that fits sustainable development goals, it is imperative to incentivize practices like Green Manufacturing, not only by private entities but by the state as well. The ‘India Green Manufacturing Challenge’ is one such step in this direction.