Giving back to the community

Airports Authority of India (AAI)’s unique paper recycling plant in Vasant Kunj, the first of its kind to be set up by a Public Sector Unit (PSU), is now ready to recycle waste on a commercial scale and is inviting both private and public entities for tie-ups to recycle all their official waste at economical cost.
The only condition is that the recycled products have to be reused by these organisations in their own offices as AAI does not have the means to sell these products. It has already tied up with organisations like CRPF and is in discussions with several schools such as the neighbouring Kendriya  Vidyalaya and various companies.
The chairman of AAI, VP Agrawal, received the Golden Peacock Eco-Innovation Award on 7 July from Chief Minister Sheila Dixit, for the innovative management of office waste and integration and use of recycled paper products from its own recycling unit in all the offices of AAI.  
The Chairman stated: ‘We want to give back to the community where we live and work. AAI is the first PSU in India to establish a paper recycling unit to support GROW (Government Recycled Office Waste). The recycling unit works on viable waste-to-energy systems and our aims are energy conservation, conversion of waste into wealth, pollution free and eco-friendly recycling, and value for money. The rethink-reduce-reuse-recycle mindset has brought a change in the corporate culture of our organisation — promoting resource minimisation, recycling and reuse of office paper and a significant awareness about environment protection.’
The unit can also recycle cotton waste and such waste is added to the paper to increase its strength. According to the plant’s manager, Mrs Kusum Das, ‘it has the capacity to recycle 80 tons of waste paper into 60 tons, through eco-friendly and advance manufacturing techniques, to create value-added special paper and products for technical and commercial applications.’
AAI recycles all of its own office waste such as cartons, magazines, newspapers and photocopied documents as well as letters and envelopes in the plant. It provides around 6.5 tons of waste paper from which 5.5 tons of recycled paper is generated.
All kinds of stationery — from folders, envelopes, letter paper and notebooks, visiting cards, calendars and certificates as well as carrybags and corporate gifts — are produced from screen-printed designs generated in-house and distributed for use to AAI offices across the country.
The recycling unit has 20 employees. The recycling process is simple and takes very little time.
It involves shredding and soaking the waste, pulping the paper in a beater and agitating the pulp into a smooth paste, after which it is pumped through pipes onto moulds and filtered into solid paper sheets measuring 34x29 inches. After it is dried naturally and polished on rollers, it is handcrafted into various products on site.
It is CSR-certified and run with the help of an NGO. It was set up in 2009 with the help of Kalyanmayee, AAI’s Women’s Welfare Association, and its chairperson, Archana Agrawal, pioneered the inception of eco-friendly practices in the project.
No boilers or heaters are used to dry the paper. No toxic chemicals, inks or dyes are used in the recycling process and the waste water is reused to water the extensive gardens around the unit. The cellulose-rich waste water has led to a lush landscape which is enjoyed by schoolchildren who come to the plant for summer training programmes, where they bring their own waste, recycle it themselves on a small hand-operated unit and take back the finished products after a week’s training.
As various signs put up around the unit remind us, recycling saves trees and saving a ton of paper saves 17 trees. It takes 17 trees to absorb 250 tons of carbon dioxide. Seventeen trees also save 700 gallons of water required in production as well as two barrels of oil and 4100 kw hours of electricity.
Today, with recycling becoming not only cost-effective but also fashionable, this is a model that can be copied across both the private and public sector, as a plant of this size can be set up with a modest investment of Rs 30-35 lakh.
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