They created a product called Plastiqube — an alternative brick made from waste plastic.
When an Indian engineering student visited a traditional brick kiln, he was taken aback at what he saw. Abhishek Banerjee recalled on his visit to the place in 2016 that workers were treated inhumanely. The working conditions in the kiln is not proper. People were seen digging clay with their bare hands.
Working in the brick kilns looks harsh. It is another form of modern slavery where workers pay off loans at usurious interest rates.
India has 140,000 brick kilns at an environmental cost. Creating of dust and sulfur dioxide causes respiratory diseases. Not only this, it causes loads of stress on local crops and wildlife. The study estimated that India’s brick kilns burn 15-20 million tons of coal per year. That makes nearly 40 million tons of climate-warming CO2 into the atmosphere.
For this, Jadavpur University student, Banerjee wanted to find a creative way as an alternative to brick kilns. He along with his other classmates, Agnimitra Sengupta, Ankan Podder and Utsav Bhattacharyya, Banerjee created a social enterprise called Qube in 2017. They created a product called Plastiqube — an alternative brick made from waste plastic.
Their teamwork with waste collectors in West Bengal gathered garbage which includes water bottles and disposable bags too. The detritus is then cleaned, shredded and pressed into blocks manually. Each Plastiqube costs nearly 5 to 6 rupees for making. The average clay brick sells for 10 rupees here. What’s more, unlike traditional bricks, Plastiqubes don’t use any mortar.
Bannerjee, now 22, stated that there are Lego bricks which have interlocking grooves on the bottom and the top. They get locked between each other.
India is estimated to throw away 25000 tons of plastic every day. Nearly 40 percent of it is uncollected. India here throws away 9 million tons of waste per year. The garbage here floats along a river in Ajmer, Rajasthan.
Reduction of Waste and Emissions
By taking out kilns and mortar from the brick-making process, Banerjee claims Plasticqubes help in reducing energy by nearly 70 percent. It generates a much lower carbon footprint than traditional bricks.
Each Plastiqube contains 1.6 kgs of plastic waste. They have not been trailed in buildings but tests on their fire resistance and long-term durability are in progress. Banerjee aims that they will last longer than traditional bricks. It will also help in the removal of waste plastic from the environment for centuries.
Banerjee is not along to make India sustainable. The country has got one of the world’s least wasteful economies as per Arundhati Pandey of the World Economic Forum. Reusing, repurposing and recycling are the norms in Indian households, where emissions per person are just over a tenth of those in the USA.
Jadavpur University support and endorsed the start-up from the initial days. Banerjee’s innovation has gained recognition. He was the regional finalist for the United Nation’s 2018 Young Champions of the Earth awards. He is also part of the Yunus and Yunus Global Fellowship, which trains and supports young social entrepreneurs, and Qube’s founders were named among Forbes’ “30 under 30” Social Entrepreneurs for Asia.