These eight waste recycling warriors are working towards making their communities zero-waste

Gayatri Vinayak

More than 70 percent of household waste in India gets diverted into the landfills without getting segregated or treated. According to the World Bank, India will generate 377,000 tonnes of waste by 2025. As per the experts, considering the current rate at which we are dumping garbage, by 2030, we would need landfills around 90 per cent of the area of Bengaluru to hold it.

Cities across the world are trying to go zero-waste by diverting their trash from landfills and recycling or composting them. In India, a few startups are already taking up waste recycling on a war footing and converting waste into wealth. These enterprises are actively moving waste beyond something to be discarded into something that can be productively used as raw materials to manufacture new products.

As we celebrate four years of Swachh Bharat, we take a look at eight waste recycling warriors of India:

Hasiru Dala Innovations: The Bengaluru based startup aims at enhancing the lives of waste pickers by providing them with sustainable livelihoods. They do this by working with waste pickers to provide waste management services to households and do-it-yourself composting solutions at the household and community level. The not-for-loss-for-benefit social enterprise works with over 290 residential complexes and corporate establishments and has diverted 723 tons of waste per month from landfills by providing composting and recycling solutions. Hasiru Dala Innovations also helps people set up organic gardens in their gardens or terraces.

Protoprint: This rather innovative Pune based social enterprise aims to help waste pickers who are socially marginalised and poorly paid, by working in tandem with them. The startup provides them with low-cost technology that enables them to produce 3D printer filament from the waste they collect. The enterprise aims to market this filament worldwide as a Fairtrade alternative to the regular plastic filament. Protoprint, founded by Sidhant Pai, is working with SWaCh and National Chemical Labs in order to improve the quality of the filament.

Saahas Zero Waste: The Bengaluru based social enterprise, founded in 2001 by former journalist Wilma Rodrigues, covers the entire waste journey from the source to its final destination. The enterprise provides waste management programmes, consultancy and research programmes and conducts awareness programmes on waste segregation and disposal. In 2017, Saahas launched outstation programmes in Gurugram and Hubbali and set up a branch in Surat. The social enterprise is also involved in conducting menstrual hygiene awareness programmes under its Rural Sanitary Waste Management programme.

Namo E-Waste Management: India is the fifth largest producer of e-waste in the world, producing around 2 million tonnes every year. This startling figure, and the fact that there is very little awareness about the proper disposal of e-waste in the country is what prompted Founder Akshay Jain to start Namo E-Waste Management. The startup provides end-to-end e-waste recycling solutions and has collection centres across 12 states and union territories. Namo also extracts metal content from e-waste and sells them as a commodity after removing the harmful content in them. The startup follows a B2B and B2C method where they collect waste from both leading companies around the country, various institutes and organisations, and from individual households and housing societies.

Code: Upset over the number of cigarette butts they found lying around at a party, Vishal Kanet and Naman Gupta of Noida decided to set up CodeConserveve Our Depleting Environment), a startup which recycles cigarette waste, from the cigarette paper to the tobacco and the ash. Cigarette butts are made up of cellulose acetate – a form of plastic that is not biodegradable. To convince more people to part with their butts responsibly, Code pays Rs 700 for every kilogram of cigarette waste and Rs 80 for every 100 grams. While the paper and the tobacco remains are composted, the ash is used to make fly ash bricks and the plastic filter is used to make stuffing for cushions and toys and packaging material.

Upcycle Co: With people no longer using CDs, VCR tapes and Vinyl records, these are either dumped in a corner of the house or thrown outside, ultimately finding their way into landfills. The Mumbai-based startup uses these records and CDs and creates chic lifestyle products including key chains, coasters clocks, book marks and sign boards. Set up in 2013, Upcycle Co sources waste through individuals and waste aggregators, cleans it, conducts a quality check and converts the waste into the quirkily designed products. So far, Upcycle has been able to save 1170 kgs of carbon emission in the process of reusing 1000 kgs of non-recyclable waste.

ReMaterials: The gravity of the housing situation in India, where many still lack a proper roof over their heads, was what motivated this eco-warrior to launch ReMaterial. ModRoof, the startup’s unique ecologically friendly roofing solution is made from waste materials like cardboard waste and coconut fibers. Created by a team led by founder Hasit Ganatra from Ahmedabad, these roofs have a lifespan of 20 years and are easy to transport, install and maintain. The startup received the Parivartan Sustainability leadership award in the Alternative Materials category in 2016 for developing these ecofriendly, durable and affordable roofing systems.