WANDERLUST | Saving the environment with recycled plastic waste

BEING inexpensive, lightweight, and easily available, the production and use of plastic has significantly increased over the decades. Molded into varieties of consumer products, plastic has become a necessity in households in as much as it is valuable to many industries. Unfortunately, this also led to the increase of plastic waste in the environment due to the lack – sometimes absence – of proper garbage disposal management in many developing countries.

FOSTERING ties with Mati City LGU

FOSTERING ties with Mati City LGU

But plastic is not the sole enemy. It is the disposal of plastic that has led to many environmental problems. One homegrown company has seen this alarming crisis as an opportunity by recycling plastic waste collected from various towns in the Mindanao.

“Our objective is really to help reduce plastic waste in landfills. We want to put to good use the waste that we gather from these landfills and create them into something more beneficial to our communities,” said Winchester O. Lemen, managing partner of Winder Recycling Company based in Km. 11, Barangay Sasa.

A mechanical engineer, Manila-born Lemen has employed similar technology from his previous venture with Envirotech. This time, he has teamed up with Davao businessman Derrick Y. Tan in bolstering their concerted endeavor in recycling plastic waste.

WINCHESTER Lemen at the drying area of the flaked waste materials

WINCHESTER Lemen at the drying area of the flaked waste materials

“I also got the inspiration from my father, Marcelo Sr., who was one of the pioneers of styrofoam production in the Philippines. Since college, I already had plans of doing something on my own with an innovation that will help reuse plastic,” he said.

Initially, Winder Recycling Company manufactures school chairs for both public and private schools. “According to the Department of Education, the country has a backlog of 1.7 million chairs for our public schools. At Winder, we can produce up to 2,000 school chairs per month that are guaranteed to last up to 20 years. It is our way of helping in fill the shortage of chairs in our classrooms,” Lemen added.

DERRICK Tan being interviewed by media

DERRICK Tan being interviewed by media

At the recycling plant, soft (candy wrappers, junk food wrappers, clothing packages, straws, shampoo and soap sachets, etc) and hard plastic (disposable utensils, plastic bottles, cups, plastic containers, etc) wastes are sorted first.

Non-plastic materials that get mixed in the collection, such as paper and metal from empty food and soda cans, are disregarded as these are deemed unusable for this type of recycling and can also cause damage to the machines.

“We source out our plastic waste from local government units – from the cities of Panabo, Digos, Tagum to as far as Polomolok in South Cotabato. We hope to get more LGU partners in the future,” he said.

The said LGUs practice garbage segregation, sending only plastic waste to Davao City for recycling. While it has not acquired any plastic waste yet from the city’s dumpsite, Winder has already received assurance of supply from the Davao City Environment and Natural Resources Office.

“Our company can crush 60 to 90 tons or about 90,000 kilos of plastic waste per month. Davao City accumulates around 600 tons of mixed waste per day, where 10% are usually from plastic. Thus, we will have more than enough plastic waste to recycle then,” revealed Lemen.

NEWLY assembled school chairs prior to sanding and painting

NEWLY assembled school chairs prior to sanding and painting

After sorting, the waste is then fed into the crusher, reducing the soft and hard plastics into smaller particles or flakes. The flakes are then soaked and washed into two tubs to take out all the dirt and oil before taking them to the drying area.

“We place them in our storage area for about half a day where they will have met the 40% moisture content so that it can easily melt in the extruder. After melting, it goes to the mold pressing machine to form parts of the school chair. Then set in another tub to cool off before finally being assembled, sanded and painted on,” he explained.

Compared to other school chair manufacturers, Winder will replace broken parts for free. However, they guarantee that these chairs from recycled waste last longer yet cost lesser than wooden ones. Each chair is pegged at PhP950.

“For each chair that we make from recycled plastic waste, we are saving a three-year old tree, which is normally used to manufacture school chairs,” he quipped.

Winder has also offered their technology to private and multinational companies for their corporate social responsibility efforts.

“We are also inviting other LGUs to learn the technology. Since we already have the business model and the system, we are willing to share it with them so that they can produce chairs for their own schools,” he added.

AT THE mold pressing machine area

AT THE mold pressing machine area

Aside from school chairs and other custom-made furniture, their company will launch later this year another breakthrough project – a 28-square meter, studio-type home, made of 95% plastic from three tons of fire retardant plastic waste.

“It will cost half of what is being offered in low cost housing and can be bought through Pag-ibig financing,” said Lemen.

AFTER being washed and dried, the flaked junk is fed into the extruder for melting

AFTER being washed and dried, the flaked junk is fed into the extruder for melting

There is still much work to be done in keeping our plastic waste disposal in place. According to a study by the Journal Science Advances, of the 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste that has been produced in the last six decades, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste. From that figure, only 9% has been recycled with the rest still accumulating in landfills or littered in the environment. If this trend continues, there will be around 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills by 2050.

“The problem of trash will be with us for years to come. Hopefully, with recycling, we will be able to help reduce the trash going to our landfills. In our case, we recycle “basura ng basura” – those junk that are not tradable, thus, eventually ending up in the landfill,” said Derrick Tan in a separate interview.

Tan hopes that with their efforts, people.will be more conscious on the effects of waste in our environment.

“The recycling business is one of the potential industries of the future. We have seen the potential of the business that can also enable us to help preserve the environment. With recycling, we get to conserve non-renewable fossil fuels, reduced consumption of energy, reduce amount of solid waste going to landfills and eventually, reduce carbon footprint. What better business is there than saving the world, right?,” he added.

Posted in Lifestyle