That empty glass bottle, which once played host to a bubbly beverage, has lived a full life. But it is not done yet.

In its afterlife now, it is part of the DNA of various buildings that are coming up across Delhi — thanks to Glass2Sand, an initiative by 19-year-old Udit Singhal that gives purpose to discarded glass. “Started in 2018, it’s a zero-waste ecosystem that stops glass bottles from being dumped in landfills and crushes them into commercially valuable silica sand,” explains Udit, who in September 2020 was selected by the United Nations as one of 17 Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Through the two-year honorary appointment, my work is to galvanise youth towards the SDGs by driving awareness, emphasising the need to facilitate engagement at a young age, and encouraging the community to embrace a better civic sense to create sustainable living spaces. So far, the “Young Leader” has been actively developing strategies to turn attention to the growing menace of glass waste and make #noglasstolandfills a movement.

Indestructible for years

The idea came to Udit when he saw empty bottles piling up at home. A 16-year-old then, he observed a looming crisis in Delhi and concluded that bulk of the glass waste, despite being recyclable and reusable, was not being segregated and was being dumped into already scarce landfill space “where it won’t decompose for a million years!”

“I imported the innovative technology that crushes bottles into sand, from New Zealand. It is as large as a washing machine and consumes household electricity,” says Udit, who received a special grant from the New Zealand High Commissioner to India. It takes the machine a few seconds to complete the process. “The sand doesn’t harm the fingers when touched. It’s used in construction, foundry linings, roads and other applications. With bottles changing form to sand, any possibility of counterfeiting is also ‘crushed’,” adds the 19-year-old who is currently studying at University College London.

Green wine bottle hitting the floor and breaking.  

So far, 14,000 glass bottles have already been stopped from entering landfills and crushed into 8,400 kilograms of high-grade silica sand, says Udit.

Glass bottles are the only input for this process. “Bottle-collection is managed through a volunteer network that responded to Glass2Sand’s Internet and social media campaign. The volunteer network is growing in Delhi,” he says, adding that an awareness campaign, “Drink Responsibly, Dispose Responsibly” has also been launched. Glass2Sand recently tied up with tonic water company Sepoy&Co. Its clients have been requested to contact Glass2Sand for “correct” disposal as soon they have a lot of 50 bottles. In addition, it has also partnered with eight diplomatic missions and a number of institutions.

All the bottles received have come from volunteers. “We pay ₹2 per kilo for bottles that come to our facility. So far, none of our volunteers have charged us for the bottles. They tell me that this is their commitment to this social cause,” says Udit, who now receives about 700 glass bottles every month.

One kilogram of bottles (including ones that are chipped, broken, coloured and dirty) is equal to one kilogram of sand. While currently the project runs out of Udit’s garage, discussions are on with like-minded organisations to replicate it in other cities.

Source: February 02, 2021, The Hindu