Living in India, you would have come across huge billboards or flexes everyday. From highways to markets, the flashy material is used by advertising companies to draw people’s attention. Any wholesale or major market you visit will find numerous advertisements, names, images and banners, which have been placed there to attract as many customers as possible.
Psychological impact aside, these flex boards also have hazardous effects on the environment.
Also known as ‘Poison Plastic’, the flexes are made from a material called Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), a synthetic plastic polymer. Since PVCs are non-biodegradable, they do not degrade on their own, so, one of the options is to burn them. When burnt, they release toxic fumes that have serious implications on public health.
Another option is to send them to the landfills as waste pickers do not earn anything from the discarded flexes. This further burdens the trenching grounds with waste that does not dissolve for years together, “No one picks it up as it has no, so it is a major issue for the municipal corporations to clear it,” says Dipen.
“This commonplace plastic is one of the most toxic substances saturating our planet and its inhabitants. PVC contaminates humans and the environment throughout its lifecycle: during its production, use, and disposal. Few consumers realize that PVC is the single most environmentally damaging of all plastics,” says Greenpeace International.
In the 1960s, when governments across the world started prohibiting industrial chlorine, companies turned to alternatives and thus, there was in a rise in PVC production.
As per reports, 90 per cent of all advertising in India in 2017 was done on PVC. On an average, around 18 tonnes of PVC flex is consumed per month.
However, the good news is that a transition to eco-friendly alternatives to PVC is possible, and many states in India have already initiated the switch.
The target audience includes corporate companies and government bodies. To help them achieve their ‘zero-waste’ target, Universal Products also offers a buyback policy where a customer can sell used flex to the company for Rs 15 per kilo.
Some of the big names who have opted for Dipen’s product include the Government of Kerala, Amul, Coca Cola, Himalaya Drug Co., and Hindustan Unilever.
Other means of promoting the product include talks, hosting events, marathons, exhibitions and so on, “We are trying to market our product in every possible sector to encourage more people to buy it. By 2020, the government aims to eliminate all single-use plastics. Ecoflex will make the implementation smoother.”
In the last four years, the company has sold flex more than 10 million square feet flex, with most customers from Kerala, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh, states where the PVC flex is banned.
With an increase in demand and potential bans in other states, the company hopes to expand its production capacity by three times from the current 40,000 sqm/day to 1,20,000 sqm/day.