This co-operative society is different from others. Unique in Mauritius, Plankton Recycling Co-operative Society Ltd specialises in the recycling of glass bottles. At its head, a determined woman, who desires to promote the status of this industry in Mauritius. Laila Colas firmly believes in the many benefits of glass recycling.
We have all heard about the recycling of plastic materials, of paper and others objects. However, the recycling of glass bottles remains a new concept for many, especially in Mauritius. Glass in fact makes up a large component of industrial and household waste but little is known about its disposal.
Instead of dumping, Plankton Recycling Co-operative Society Ltd, found in Bel Ombre, recycles glass bottles by grinding and transforming them into six aggregates that are used for different purposes. Sole society which operates in the recycling of glass bottles, Plankton aims at preserving the environment by turning the waste glass into useful products. The society, which started as a community project set up by Rogers Enterprise in 2011, has been managed since four years by a strong-willed woman.
Laila Colas explains how Plankton gained momentum. “After two years of activity, Rogers bequeathed the society to my colleague and I. We were determined to make glass bottle recycling recognised in Mauritius. The first months were challenging and employees were disheartened. However, courses at Enterprise Mauritius motivated me to move on. I conducted research work for a year and I discovered the many uses of recycled glass bottles. We also did market research and laboratory tests to get further approval for the aggregates we were to produce,” she explains.
The manager of Plankton adds that slowly but surely the society started to make itself known. “We got the opportunity (through the cooperatives) to exhibit our products several times, which enabled us to contact enterprises. This is how we got our first order for one ton of aggregate for water filtration,” declares Laila Colas. Within months, Plankton started delivering its product to various companies.
So how does the recycling of glass bottles work? Plankton collects the glass bottles from companies, namely hotels situated at Bel Ombre. Twice a week, Plankton collects around seven tons of glass bottles. Once at the depot, the bottles are cleaned and separated according to colours. It is then that the recycling begins. The bottles are passed through a grinder where six aggregates are produced and separated.
“The aggregates differ in sizes and each is used for specific purposes. For example, the 2.5mm aggregate is used for swimming pool water filters, for feet therapy as it promotes blood circulation, to maintain humidity in soil for plants such as orchids. The 0.5mm aggregate can be used for plastering (of houses and buildings) instead of sand. It can also be added to fresh paint, as it provides better output “The 3mm, 2mm, 1mm and 0.6mm aggregate can be used for different purposes such as anti-slip flooring, for table and house decoration, among others.
Protecting the environment
“Can you imagine where would all these used bottles go if they were not recycled and its consequences on our environment in 10 years’ time?”, asks Laila Colas. Laila started with a career in the hotel industry but later shifted to a company doing social work, mainly in the environment field. “Conducting social work was a real eye opener. When this offer from Plankton came, I decided to work for the protection of the environment,” she confides.
Laila Colas elaborates on the benefits of recycled glass bottles. “Besides being environment friendly, the recycled glass bottles save water, energy, sand, etc. Its lifetime is also longer than materials such as sand and zeolite. Used in pool filtration for example, it does not allow bacteria growth within the water filter.” She also aims to create more jobs and most importantly, awareness among the youth. “For example, I take students for internships. They not only learn about what we do but they also see that the future is in glass recycling.”
Laila reveals that she is proud of the work accomplished. From only four employees at its inception, Plankton Recycling now employs around twelve people. “This has been possible thanks to my colleague as well. Team spirit and team work are at the core of what we do.” However, she dreams of expanding the society.
“Instead of importing 50% of the recycled glass from Europe, the government should encourage that 100% of this product originates locally.” But for this to take shape, an additional recycling depot is necessary. “I want to open a recycling depot in the north. I would collect glass bottles, specifically from hotels and thus cope with the growing demand. However, I will also need the help of sponsors to buy an additional grinder.”
An advocate for women, Laila also encourages women to work. “I wish to create jobs for women living in the north. Instead of staying at home or having to come to Bel Ombre, they can regroup themselves and work. This will improve their quality of life as well as empower them,” says the mother of two. She adds that the secret to a balanced life is planning. “A well planned day and good communication form the backbone to both the professional and personal lives. I have worked very hard, but support from my family has helped to achieve success on both fronts.”