NEW DELHI: Udit Singhal, who founded a startup to turn glass bottles into sand, has been named among 17 people in the United Nation’s 2020 Class of Young Leaders for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The programme is a flagship initiative that recognises the efforts of young people in driving action and galvanising others in support of UN’s 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
Singhal, an 18-year-old who lives near Mandi House, told TOI, “I feel proud to represent India. Along with 16 others, I’ll work to motivate youths and achieve SDGs. I hope to be able to encourage communities to inculcate better civic sense to create sustainable living spaces.” The teenager attended the UN function online due to the Covid pandemic. “In the normal scenario, I would have gone to New York,” he added.
Singhal had founded Glass2Sand in 2019 as a zero-waste system that turns bottles into economically viable sand. “In 2018, I found a pile of bottles at home. During research, I learnt that ragpickers were not interested in collecting glass bottles because of little demand, high transportation cost and storage space. So empty glass bottles often ended up at the landfills. Do you know it takes a million years for a glass bottle to decompose?”
Singhal then imported a machine from New Zealand with a special grant from the New Zealand High Commissioner in India and went to work helped by 65 volunteers, six diplomatic missions and four institutions, collecting bottles from across Delhi. “It takes five seconds to turn one empty glass bottle into sand. We have crushed 8,000 kg of bottles into 4,800 kg of high-grade silica sand so far,” he said. “This silica sand is commercially viable because it is used in construction, including roads and as lining in furnaces. It is more valuable than river sand in making concrete.”
Singhal studied in The British School in Delhi and is currently a freshman at University College in London where he is a management sciences student.
Other young leaders cited by Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, for “leading the way in shaping a more sustainable and inclusive future for all” belong to the United States, Turkey, China, Pakistan, Peru, Egypt, Senegal, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Brazil, Liberia, Ireland, Colombia, Australia, Uganda and Bangladesh.

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