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Indian Building Products Industry: Using Plastic Responsibly

PLASTINDIA Foundation aims to put India on the global map as a preferred manufacturing hub for plastic products. The Indian building products industry, which accounts for a significant share of plastic products output, is responding well to heightened concerns for the environment and sustainability, the Foundation’s president Jigish Doshi writes. 

THE BUILDING PRODUCTS INDUSTRY in India is estimated to be at US$ 225 billion. The projected growth rate for 2022 is around 10 per cent and it is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 8 to 9 per cent in the coming five years.

Very few think about the building products industry when we talk about sustainability. More often than not, what first comes to mind are sectors like utility, steel or mining. But a ‘composite’ industry like building products is dependent on several other big sectors, like cement and steel which account for nearly 40 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

The good news is that key sectors that make up this industry including steel, power and cement, and the larger building materials sector, are shifting towards greener alternatives both in terms of products and manufacturing processes. The scope for creating a more sustainable construction sector is immense, and the use of environment-friendly building materials is an important part of it, where recyclable plastic waste becomes an integral part.

ALSO READ: Will Make India a Global Plastics Hub, says Chem & Fert Minister Mansukh Mandaviya

The idea of a circular economy within the Indian building products industry is also catching up through increased use of recycled building material and more sustainable processes, allowing buildings to do more with fewer inputs such as water and energy. A scientific approach to creating more sustainable building materials is also spreading in India. This is pushing manufacturers to work closely with academia through outcome-driven partnerships.

Moreover, when we talk about the plastics industry and the circular economy, not many people know how valuable plastic waste is to us. Plastic waste is used all over the country. From the construction of roads in Delhi to the housing units and vendor kiosks in Sircilla, Telangana, recycled plastic waste is all around us.

Here I would like to cite two articles published by UNDP, to underline the significance of responsible plastic waste management and as well as to uprise you of the efforts being put in towards fostering a circular economy in India:

A circular economy offers a pathway to more sustainable resource management. It means keeping the value of plastics in the economy so that the material itself stays out of the natural environment. In a circular economy the plastic cycles through a perpetual ‘closed loop’, rather than being used once and discarded.”

“As of June 2021, the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Plastic Waste Management Programme in India has helped to process 83,900 metric tonnes of plastic waste. The ambition is to process or recycle 85,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste and reach 50 plus cities by the year 2024.”

PLASTIC AS A BUILDING MATERIAL is versatile and environment-friendly. Traditional products like PVC pipes both for hot and cold water used in plumbing and fire-retardant wires and cables for safer buildings are well known. Plastic is now used for improved insulation in wall panels and windows, as the material consumes less heat and thus lowers energy consumption. Plastic building material is also corrosion-resistant, making it a durable choice.

Consumers also play an important role in making the building products industry sustainable. In both residential and commercial spaces, they are ensuring that the carbon footprint is minimal. Solutions like rooftop solar installations backed by net metering are fast catching up in a variety of user groups like households, factories and commercial buildings.

Demand for green buildings is also gaining pace. It has grown to more than 7.5 billion sft of built-up space today, making India one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for green buildings around the world. The Indian Green Building Council expects to meet the 10 billion sft target by 2022. Plastics can help the industry meet this target.

Sustainable building practices are the need of the hour, given the turmoil that our environment is going through. The Indian building products industry has indeed become more eco-friendly and is adopting sustainable practices to become truly green.

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