11 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year, making it one of the biggest threats society faces. If this trend continues unabated, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.
The majority of the plastic which ends up in the ocean ends up through rivers. To address the challenge of marine plastic pollution, Geocycle, the global waste management arm of cement giant LafargeHolcim, is piloting a smart and non-invasive technology in India to remove plastics from canals before they reach the oceans. With the launch of the innovative ‘bubble curtain’ technology for the first time in India, Geocycle aims to stop plastic from entering the river Yamuna.
Bursting the Marine Litter Bubble in Yamuna
A non-invasive solution, Bubble Curtain stops plastic from entering the oceans. While ships and fish can easily pass through the air bubbles, however, the bubble traps all plastic waste present in the river. The bubble screen is created by a specially designed air tube which is placed diagonally on the bed of the canal or river. This brings waste to the surface, channels the plastic onto the banks where it can be extracted. The bubble barrier is generated using compressed air passing through tubes that are placed at the bottom of the canal. These tubes are connected with a compressor which is powered by renewable solar energy. Further, aeration in the canal will increase dissolved oxygen levels in the wastewater or stormwater leading to an overall improvement in the water quality.
Geocycle’s Bubble Barrier technology has been established on the Mantola Canal of Agra City in Uttar Pradesh, which carries 40% of the storm and wastewater of Agra City. The Mantola canal has been selected for this unique project as it carries 40% of Agra city’s wastewater and has seen a significant amount of plastic contamination. Capturing the plastics floating in this canal will help in preventing the plastic litter of the Yamuna River.
Partnering for Plastic-free Agra
Under the aegis of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) India’s Air Pollution Control Action Plan, Geocycle has partnered with Agra Municipal Corporation and GIZ India with Canadian Pond as technology provider for working on the mission of making Agra plastic-free. Geocycle supports the Swachh Bharat Mission by co-processing significant volumes of municipal solid waste, including non-recyclable plastics across India.
“Geocycle’s approach to river plastic cleaning is distinct from other river clean-up projects which rely on landfilling or incineration. Geocycle’s vast co-processing infrastructure guarantees safe and environmentally friendly final treatment of the collected waste: co-processing in cement kiln recovers energy and recycles material value in waste, leaving no residue,” said Neeraj Akhoury, CEO India, LafargeHolcim and MD & CEO of Ambuja Cements Limited. “These two technologies – bubble curtain and co-processing combined – offer a good opportunity to fight the challenge of marine litter by tackling the problem at the source,” he added.
“UNEP India is happy to collaborate with Geocycle for the pilot project ‘Plastic Free Agra’ for the cleanup of riverine plastic waste by targeting the channels leading to the Yamuna river. The Geocycle Bubble Barrier is an innovative concept based on existing technology that makes smart use of a combination of natural currents and a bubble curtain to channelize plastic waste towards the banks of rivers and canals instead of it flowing directly into the Yamuna river, from where it is collected for safe treatment,” says Mr. Atul Bagai, Head India Country Office, UN Environment Programme.
The plastic waste extracted from the canal will be taken to a Municipal Solid Waste treatment and Materials Recovery Facility. The recyclable plastics will be sent to recycling facilities, while the non-recyclable plastics will be taken to Geocycle’s facility for pre-processing followed by co-processing in ACC or Ambuja cement kilns. Once successful, this technology will be replicated in other countries by LafargeHolcim.
Note: LafargeHolcim is the parent company of Ambuja Cements, and ACC Ltd., the two major cement producing companies in India. Geocycle India is the inhouse waste management arm of Ambuja and ACC. It is a leading provider of industrial, agricultural, municipal, and plastic waste management services.