A recent newspaper article stated that, “As prosperity grows, 62 million tonnes of garbage is generated everyday by the 377 million people living in urban India, now the world’s third-largest garbage generator. ~100k acres  land needed to hold trash of a1B Indians for 25 years. The end-point being 80% of India’s urban waste ends up in rivers. What does this mean for collecting and processing – 60% of urban India waste collected and <5% processed!”

With the speed at which India’s metro and tier II cities are growing, there is a lot of waste that is being generated directly or indirectly by all us citizens. The awareness towards waste segregation and waste management seems to absent across the country. Off late, the Prime Minister’s “Swacha Bharath” initiative is looking to enhance the awareness around waste management and citizen’s contribution towards sustainable living.

But are these national initiatives enough to bring change? No. You need organizations who can innovate and create a sustainable waste management solution. One such organization is Waste Ventures India. Waste Ventures India was started half a decade ago by Parag Gupta. He was then based in the US. The company was initially set-up to understand the waste management space and also work closely with the municipal corporations in Vizag. Parag was then joined by Rob Whiting (co-founder from the US, worked with BCG) and Roshan Miranda (co-founder, a PhD in Microbiology from a top-5 medical schools in the US, and from BCG as well), decided to shift the company to Hyderabad in mid-2015. He also re-worked the strategy and focus of the company. Mathangi Swaminathan (MBA from ISB, working in Singapore in a technology company), joined them also during the same time frame and since then they have grown tremendously. The startup’s product manager Abdul joined them to build their technology platform, Toter (Hyderabad’s first household level recyclable pickup service) was born.

In conversation with Mathangi Swaminathan, of Waste Ventures India (WVI)

Tell me about the journey of WVI?

When Parag returned to India, he saw that garbage was strewn across all street corners. He also saw that when garbage is burnt in the street corners it leads to lung cancer. The Deonar dumpyard fire, waste crisis in major cities in India like Bangalore, Delhi, Pune led to the him thinking about how to create a green sustainable situation to manage waste while creating impact. Hence WVI was born.

WVI was set-up about three years back in Hyderabad. Why did we choose Hyderabad? because Bangalore and Pune have regulations already set-up and most localities and building societies are mandated to undertake garbage segregation. While Hyderabad is on the list where if preventive measures not taken early on, can lead to a difficult situation for waste disposal, especially when they have been scouting for a landfill for years, and haven’t gotten anywhere due to lack of consensus. When we set-up, we tied up with 7 city municipalities to collect and process solid waste. However, we realized that this model of operations did not work, as the delays in payments and grafts dealt a heavy blow. Parag and his team, then decided to rework the model of how the business could be sustainable.

Today WVI works with about 18,000 households, several corporate campuses such as Google, Flipkart and Infosys and hold partnerships with multiple MNCs such as Coca-Cola and HUL as part of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to ensure any plastic produced in the country ends up at some recycling facility.

We primarily collect from large generators of waste, such as Heritage Foods, the largest dairy in Telangana. In addition, we are Tetra Pak’s official partner in Hyderabad, sourcing cartons from over 300 waste pickers, effectively taking cartons out of the landfill and putting cash into the hands of waste pickers.

We have built a model zero-waste village at Gandipet, with a decentralized composting center, ensuring less than 5% of the waste from the village ends up in landfills. With such a robust mode, today we are able to recycle more than 100 MT every month, working with approximately 1000+ waste pickers, and have averted more than 950+tons of carbon dioxide from the environment.

WVI was set-up in Hyderabad, as there are no exisiting government regulations, and prevention needs to be high on the agenda

WVI works with about 18,000 households, several corporate campuses such as Google, Flipkart and Infosys and hold partnerships with multiple MNCs such as Coca-Cola and HUL as part of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to ensure any plastic produced in the country ends up at some recycling facility.

We have built a model zero-waste village at Gandipet, with a decentralized composting center, ensuring less than 5% of the waste from the village ends up in landfills.

Toter is Hyderabad’s first digital recyclable pickup platform for Households and Small & Medium Enterprises.

What has been the biggest successes on the way?

When we decided to work on urban waste management services, we looked at some of the large housing complexes in Hyderabad, which housed more 700 apartments within a gated community. When we started the program with one such gated community, we realized that the residents were not aware about aware abut waste segregation. We worked with 8 passionate residents, all women group who were looking at bringing change into the housing society. These 8 green champions, ensured that there were regular sessions set-up along with WVI members to enhance awareness around waste management and composting. Also, these 8 green champions also conducted audit of every block and went ahead to convert the non-compliers to also segregate waste for more efficient waste management. During the summer break, they also enlisted many kid green champions to spread awareness on waste segregation through door to door campaigns, role plays, skits, etc. This was all done in a matter of less than 3 months. The entire society is 100 % compliant to effective waste management.

Another success on our journey is Toter. Toter is Hyderabad’s first digital recyclable pickup platform for Households and Small & Medium Enterprises. Anybody looking for a green channel for their waste, just has to go toter.in and book his/her pickup time and slot. This is as simple as booking a cab – takes less than a minute.  Once the slot is confirmed, a Toter representative will come to the designated location at the scheduled time, weigh the recyclables using a digital weigh scale and pay cash on the spot. This service, is not only free but residents earn cash for their trash as well.

In the last one month, the Toter team has picked up approximately 2 Metric tones and they are hoping to scale this up to more than 500 MT by the end of 2017. They also hope to scale the concept to 2 other metropolitan cities by the end of 2 years.

What are your future plans?

We would like to be known as a national player in providing sustainable waste management. We are currently putting the building blocks for that together. We look to grow to both in Telangana and beyond. Recently, we have signed a letter of intent to provide waste management solutions to 50 locations within the state. We are also looking at expand into 20 smaller towns across the nation and one additional metro city in the next 2 to 3 years.

How can people collaborate with WVI?

We need green champions to come and collaborate with us. If anyone wants to get in touch with us to be a volunteer or be a part of WVI’s activities, please write to us at mathangi[at]wasteventures.com or contact[at]yourphilanthropystory.in

About Us:

Waste Ventures India is a waste management social enterprise that is moving India‘s solid waste sector to models that are simultaneously environmentally and financially sustainable. We offer professional waste collection and processing services to households, corporate clients and waste pickers. Since late 2013, we have averted over 3,000 tons of waste from Indian dumpsites.  We offer Hyderabad‘s first digital doorstep recyclable pickup service.