India presently accounts for 12% of the global municipal solid waste generation. With the country’s rising population, this figure is only expected to grow and estimated to reach 165 million tonnes by 2030.
With the many global crises staring us in the face, it goes without saying that waste management is the need of the hour. Fortunately, there are responsible citizens in the country who have decided to lead the way.
What is Waste?
In the most general terms, waste is defined as unwanted and unusable materials. Any substance which is of no use is regarded as waste. The waste that we commonly see in our surroundings includes domestic wastes (waste from houses), municipal wastes (waste from schools, offices, etc.), and industrial wastes (waste from industries and factories).
Waste can be a material unwanted by its producer (e.g., by-products of production processes like fly ash from a furnace) or products whose inherent value has been consumed by a consumer (e.g., a newspaper that has been read or a package that has been opened and emptied of its contents).
What’s the big deal about managing Waste?
Disposing of waste has significant environmental impacts and can cause serious problems to different species that inhabit the earth, including humans. While this may seem like a standalone reason, it has the power to impact every habitat on earth. Waste generation pollutes the earth’s land, air, and water as well as the health of living beings.
Effectively managing, and gradually reducing, the waste we generate can:
a. Initiate Financial and Social Impact: Industries developed to recycle waste generate employment for local communities. Alternatively, conscious consumption allows consumers to save money.
b. Conserve Resources: Materials such as cans, paper packaging, and plastic bags are made by exploiting aluminum, trees, and petroleum. Recycling waste can reduce the need for virgin materials thereby reducing the pressure on Earth’s limited resources.
c. Conserve Landfill Spaces: One of the biggest reasons to reduce waste is to conserve space in our landfills and thereby reduce the need to build more landfills—which act as a source of land, air, and water pollution.
d. Help Save Energy: Less energy is needed to recycle materials as opposed to creating new materials. Manufacturing of consumer goods is a process that consumes a considerable amount of energy. Therefore, by limiting the need for new resources, a large amount of energy can be saved.
What are some simple ways to manage waste?
Waste management and prevention can take many forms, including:
a.Purchasing durable, long-lasting materials
b.Using products that are free of toxic materials
c.Striving to eliminate raw materials that are not included in your final product or service
d.Reducing the amount of packaging and/or using recyclable or reusable packaging
e.Conserving water and/or energy
f.Implementing in-process recycling
Waste prevention can be made a routine part of our daily lives with a little time and effort:
Determine what waste you generate
- Examine all of your waste streams. These may include hazardous waste, non-hazardous waste, solid waste, food waste, clothing waste, e-waste, etc.
- Examine your energy and waste consumption. Try to find high and low usage trends in your water and electric bills.
Identify Waste Prevention Measures
- Evaluate all of your waste for possible reduction. Try to work out waste in which you can reduce each type of waste. Re-visit your purchasing policies and determine what you can reuse.
Set your Priorities & Goals
- Prioritize waste management and prevention opportunities by considering cost, ease of implementation, sustainability, circularity, payback, etc.
- Set attainable goals for yourself, your household, and/or your community and work towards achieving them.
Get people involved
- Teach people in your communities the different ways to effectively manage and prevent waste. Describe some of the waste management and prevention policies and goals and help people adopt them into their everyday lives.
Indian Companies Pioneering the Waste Management Movement in India
Recykal is Asia’s largest circular economy marketplace that provides digitally-powered solutions for waste generators, processors, and collectors in the country.
The organisation offers a complete suite of solutions that help enterprises achieve their sustainability goals. Through EPR, takeback solutions, and ICE workshops, Recykal has built a user-friendly tool that can help track the entire journey of plastic waste.
A non-profit organization launched in 2001, Saahas works with the vision to make India a leading Circular Economy where Nothing is wasted. The organization actively pilots innovative resource management programs and collaborates with communities, businesses, administrators, and lawmakers to implement them.
Saahas is pioneering the waste management movement in India by:
a. Studying, analysing, and providing policy recommendations, disseminating knowledge, and building capacities of government functionaries.
b. Involving students, corporate volunteers, and the like in campaigns focused on the principles of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
c. Providing technical support to urban local bodies (ULBs), gram panchayats (GPs), and communities, enabling behavioural change in the process.
d. Providing end-to-end support for the implementation of sustainable waste management practices to ULBs, GPs, and Communities through innovative solid waste management projects. Some of the support activities herein include source segregation, setting up on-site processing facilities, and establishing ward-level community waste processing facilities.
e. Promoting and enabling social inclusion through programs that focus on integrating waste workers in formal solid waste management systems by conducting skill development and/or enhancement programs and creating job or entrepreneurship opportunities through repair, reuse, and recycle initiatives.
3. Waste Ventures India:
A waste management social enterprise based in Telangana, Waste Ventures India works with informal waste pickers and bulk waste generators to create inclusive, financially viable and environmentally sustainable waste management models.
Through dry waste collection, organic waste processing, waste audits and certification, and CSR project services, and zero waste events and field trips and workshops, the organization is practically a one-point solution for all waste management needs of an individual and/or enterprise.
Based in Uttar Pradesh, Phool.co is a biomaterials startup that collects flower waste (mostly from places of worship) and uses it to create innovative products, preventing approximately 7600 Kgs of waste flowers and 97 Kgs of toxic chemicals from getting into the river daily.
Some of their products include incense sticks and cones, essential oils, incense holders, and candle votives.
In its 7 years of operation, the organization has recycled 11,060 tons of flowers and offset 11 tons of pesticides while employing 73 women full-time and enabling 19 children to start school.
5. Bare Necessities
A company mirroring the values of zero waste, Bare Necessities takes a people- and earth-centered approach to address unsustainable behaviour in the processes of manufacturing, distribution, and consumption and provides innovative and sustainable solutions to waste.
Bare Necessities continually works towards producing zero-waste products, hosting educational workshops, and conducting sustainability consulting services to make zero-waste the norm instead of an exception.
Possibly the most interesting one on the list, Cerclex is a catalytic solution provider that uses blockchain technology to introduce transparency and traceability in waste management, thereby accelerating the adoption of circular packaging.
CercleX’s app ScrapMarket allows you to buy and sell scraps with zero transaction fee, receive daily live scrap market price updates, and transact with 100% verified buyers and sellers of scraps across India.
One of the most impressive works by the organisation has to be recycling shredded currency notes after demonetization into notebooks and calendars! Other commendable projects from Cerclex include converting PET bottles into t-shirts and blankets, turning ethically-sourced ocean plastic into playground equipment, and converting multi-layered packaging MLP waste into bio-toilets and park benches.
Operating since 2014, Evirocor is a unique brand that is mainstreaming the circular economy by designing sustainable food packaging that is not only 100% biodegradable but also leak-proof with a unique design and solid environmental qualities.
Called Oko, the sustainable food packaging by Evirocor has been designed to be returned back to nature at the end of its life cycle. The organization is working towards making sustainable packaging a way of life, beating plastic pollution and mitigating the menace of dangerous dumping of plastics, aluminium, and other commonly used non-biodegradable or non-recyclable food packaging materials.
The brand also has a line of e-packaging materials such as cartons and earth-friendly and plastic-free packing tapes.
Incepted in 2012, mainly inspired by the Swach Bharat Mission, Envigreen uses natural starch, vegetable oil derivatives, and vegetable waste to produce 100% biodegradable substitutes to plastic.
Made without any ounce of conventional plastic, Envigreen’s products are non-toxic to the environment, animals, and plants. Their current range of products includes carry bags, trash bags, oil and grease sachets, bin liners, aprons, packaging films, wrapping covers, and laundry bags.
9. Banayan Nation
Banayan Nation is a vertically integrated plastics recycling company that helps brands use recycled plastics in mainstream products and packaging. The brand’s proprietary technology collects consumer and industrial plastic waste and converts it into high-quality recycled granules called Better Plastic.
The brand has pioneered closed loop recycling initiatives with 1) one of India’s leading automotive company and 2) a global cosmetics company. For the former, Banyan Nation is making new bumpers from discarded ones and for the latter, it is using discarded bottles to make new ones.
A pioneer in the crop waste management sector, Craste converts waste crop residue into materials for packaging and furniture appliances. Craste’s aim is to achieve zero inorganic waste in the environment by employing and incorporating circular economy models.
The brand currently uses crop residue (which when burned would release approximately 150 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere) to create timber-free pulp and paper and formaldehyde-free particle boards.
Based in Mumbai, Lucro is a team of ‘plastic up-cyclers’ who create high-value products from post-consumer waste to ensure that plastic stays in a circular economy.
Lucro follows a 4-step process to recover plastic waste collected from various channels and recycle it into granules that form the final packaging and products.
a. Collection: collecting materials from waste-pickers, NGOs, brands, and aggregators.
b. Material Science: removing dry ink, absorbing oil and contaminants, and ridding the collected plastic of odour from granules.
c. Products: creating high-value recycled plastic products that reduce the need for virgin packaging.
d. Technology: using blockchain technology to track every aspect of the waste management value chain.
Working towards keeping plastics in the economy and out of the environment, Recity enables value chain collaborations between brands, consumers, waste workers, the government, and the recycling ecosystem.
The brand works on the models of:
a.Circular Cities: ensuring efficient city-level waste management by employing systemic solutions in behavior change, supply chain, material recovery, waste worker professionalism, and governance technology.
b.Circular Governance: bringing brands on a common EPR automation platform with Producer Responsibility Organisations and Regulatory authorities for smooth compliance management.
c.Circular Packaging: sourcing high-quality recyclates from oceans, hills, and landfill-bound municipal solid waste with end-to-end traceability.
An award-winning social initiative that aims at reducing fabric wastage while ensuring women’s empowerment. The brand collects unwanted clothing and fabric from individuals and organizations across the country and converts them into new products.
Twirl.store also uses part of the collection as clothing to be distributed in slums and far-flung villages. The remaining material is upcycled into eco-friendly bags, accessories, and gift items.
14. Malai Eco
Giving new definitions to innovations, Malai Eco works with south India’s coconut farmers and processing units to collect waste coconut and convert it into fabric!
Conveniently named Malai, the fabric is a newly developed material made from 100% organic and sustainable bacterial cellulose grown on agricultural waste sourced from South India’s coconut industry.
Malai is a flexible and durable material with water-resistance properties.
Built for fashion brands that want to be sustainable, Relove is a technology enabling brands to run their own thrift shops. Relove manages the entire peer-to-peer resale process including technology integration, listing approvals, shipping, communication, customer care, and traceability.