INDIA – A number of garbage cafés in New Delhi, India are trying out a novel recycling idea of exchanging plastic trash for a meal in an effort to rid the city of plastic waste.

The type of meal customers would enjoy in the restaurant depends on the quantity of plastic delivered.

A kilo of plastic waste would for instance earn one a snack while a generous 10kg bag of plastic waste would earn the deliverer a modest meal.

A substantial feast would therefore necessitate handing over lorry-loads of plastic trash, a prospect that is neither practical nor conducive to whetting appetites.

The idea behind the plastic waste for food initiative is to give consumers an incentive for submitting garbage for recycling.

India generates nearly 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, making it the 15th biggest plastic polluter globally.

Discarded plastic waste litter the country’s roads, rivers, and also form huge mounds in garbage dumps across the country.

“The rubbish dump I frequent is filled mostly with plastic,” Ram Kumar, a ragpicker in Noida, near New Delhi, told Quartz during a past interview.

“Bottles, containers, and polythene bags are some of the items I routinely gather from here (to sell to recyclers).”

During the monsoon, plastic bottles in India’s dumpsite accumulate water and are a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Besides the stench, the site poses a major health hazard for the area’s residents, exposing them to mosquito-borne diseases.

Many a times, the solid waste has been put on fire by the municipal agency, polluting the air.

It can also be fatal for the stray animals, mainly cows and dogs that end up mistaking plastic for food.

Instead of accumulating the plastics in house only to dispose them in either of the above ways- which is unsustainable- consumers can store and carry them to a dedicated area where they know their waste will be recycled.

Therefore, its not the size of the meal that these restaurants are offering, but an environmentally friendly way of managing plastic waste.

Swapping ‘waste for taste’ is not a novel initiative, of course, as Mexico City implemented this idea back in 2012 and has included glass, metal, cardboard, and even electronic detritus.

It is too early to gauge whether the scheme will work in India, as the country generates more trash than these cafés and recycling units can handle.

The novel idea, however, offers a solution with the potential to have an impact if expanded into the rest of the vast country.

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