Radhika Chaudhary, Co-founder and CFO, Ricron Panels
Packaging material that is used in chips or biscuit wrappers is voluminous and not easy to recycle, since such waste is low-value due to lack of an organised market. “This waste that is tough to recycle is what we recycle,” says Radhika Chaudhary, co-founder and CFO, Ricron Panels. The company recovers this non-recyclable waste and uses its proprietary technology to convert this waste into forms of sheets that are used as a building material, which is low cost and high quality.
These Ricron panels are seen to be a replacement for traditional plywood, but the cost is close to 20 percent lower and they can be used across industries—housing and furnishing or construction. Additionally, these panels are waterproof, so, “in places where there is a lot of water seepage and walls are damp, if you panel it with Ricron and then paint over it you don’t realise the difference,” she says. They provide roof sheets, a replacement for metal and cement, and flat sheets, a replacement for plywood.
The main challenge that they are solving for is that of multi-layer plastics. Chaudhary explains, “There is an aluminium barrier between two or more layers of plastic, because of which the plastic can’t be granulated. Some people—mostly women and children—who do pick this up, either dip it in acid or burn it to separate the layers. This is a toxic process.” As an alternative, Ricron buys the waste collected from these ragpickers and processes it to use in their panels. During this process, says Chaudhary, “for every tonne of Ricron manufactured, we save about 4 tonnes of carbon emissions”.
The Ankleshwar-based company started manufacturing commercially in 2014-15, with about 50 tonnes a month. Now, their capacity is at 700 tonnes, and increasing as the business continues to expand. Not only do they have clients all across India, but have also exported Ricron sheets to the US, the UK, European and African countries, Thailand and Nepal. In December 2020, they raised a Pre-Series A round of funding and are looking for one more round for geographical expansion and marketing. Also read: Will we soon be using new-gen fuels made from recycled plastic waste?
At present, the company accepts plastic waste from sectors such as FMCG and cosmetics. Going forward, they wish to be sector-agnostic when it comes to packaging waste. Already, during the manufacturing of Ricron panels, there is no waste produced. Additionally, “once you are done using our product, we buy it back and recycle it further, hence closing the loop on the circularity.”