Waste is…valuable!


Recycling should be the mantra for our times. A nation like Sweden sends only 1% of its waste to landfills while India figures among top twenty polluters of the seas. Usha Hariprasad insists that waste segregration and recycling have to become a way of life. She also profiles some encouraging waste management initiatives in India.

Here is something surprising. In Sweden, only 1% of the waste finds its way into the landfills. The rest gets recycled – as new products, energy or simply as raw materials! How’s this possible? One of the reasons is that segregation is followed in most of the Swedish households. So junk goes where it is meant to go. Newspapers, plastics, tins, glass, metal,-e-waste make their way towards recycling units. Food waste gets effectively composted. Items like plastic, papers, bottles turn into raw materials or new items, unusable electronic items go straight to recycling facilities. About 50% of household waste is transformed into energy in Sweden’s plants. So successful has their recycling model been that the country even imports waste from other countries.

Livelihood from waste
Back home, Dharavi in Mumbai recycles 80% of the waste generated by the city. Plastic, metal, glass, aluminium, pipes, cardboard, soap…the list of waste picked up by the rag pickers in the city is endless. These are then sorted, segregated and sent to the recycling units of Dharavi. The waste is transformed into new items by machines and manual labour. Plastic waste gets converted into chips, paper gets transformed to pulp, metal gets extracted from e-waste parts like computers, mobiles, left over and discarded soaps get reprocessed – the Dharavi residents are innovative, finding new ways of processing and transforming waste. And that’s why today nearly 15,000 small scale industries have sprung up in this area. Waste is a source of livelihood here.

Most of the things that we use day-to-day can be recycled, barring a few like Styrofoam, ceramics, contaminated napkins, tissues etc. Yet, the world today produces 1.4 million tonnes of waste every day, and India contributes a whopping .14 million tonnes to this. India also figures in the list of top 20 countries that pollute the seas with their plastic.

It need not be like this. With so much waste, there are so many more opportunities for recycling. Some firms in India have perceived waste as valuable and have geared upto turning it into something useful. Here is a look at some of them that have transformed waste into something valuable.

Enabling selling of electronic waste online: Have old mobile phones that you no longer use? Then you can sell it at atterobay for a good price. Attero is a Noida based e-waste Management Company that promotes e-waste recycling and reuse. Set up in 2008, it has a pan India presence with its e-waste collection centres in various parts of the country like Delhi, Lucknow, Pune, Bangalore, Ahmedabad etc.

India generates a lot of e-waste, which some firms have now started recycling

India generates a lot of e-waste, which some firms have now started recycling

You can call their toll free number too if you have an old laptop, television set etc., to dispose of. Once you schedule a pick up, their representative will collect e-waste from your home and send it to their recycling facility. The various components like displays, PCB, batteries are dismantled and sent to their high tech recycling units. These get reused in various other industries like automobiles, electronics etc. Attero also has the technology to extract valuable metals from electronic waste. Along with recycling, Attero also refurbishes e-waste.

Note: There are other websites too that allow selling of used electronic items. One of them is Karma Recycling that allows resale of ipad, smart phones and laptops through their ecommerce website.

Transforming waste to fibre: Arora Fibres set up in 1994 is converting polyester waste into polyester staple fibre. The polyester is collected from waste, plastic bottles or through waste disposed from polyester plants. This fibre has a huge market as it is used in various industries ranging from automobiles to food packaging industry. The plant set up in Dadra and Nagar Haveli can process 18,000 MT annually. Another company that recycles PET bottles and converts it into yarn is Ganesha Ecosphere. The fibre they have developed is being used in garment industries. Their manufacturing units are in Kanpur and Rudrapur, Uttrakhand, and they have been recycling PET bottles since 1995.

New products out of waste: New paper from old, new glass from bottles, roofs for construction from old newspaper…Let’s Recycle to date has recycled 2192 plus MT of plastic, saved 1503 tonnes of paper and has plans to divert 30000 MT waste from going to landfills by 2020. An initiative of NEPRA Resource Management Pvt LTD, Let’s Recycle in Gujarat collects dry waste from companies, sorts and segregates it and then sells it to recycling mills.

Similar to Let’s Recycle, Pastiwala in Vadodara also collects waste paper. Annually they manage to collect and recycle 20,000 MT of paper and cardboard. Their recycled products then get sold to other firms like the paper industries.

Organic waste turns to compost: In Noida, Eco Wise, a waste management company deals with both organic and inorganic waste generated by residential complexes, industries and commercial establishments. Once a pick up is scheduled with them, their ‘Health officers’ or representatives visit the home or establishment and collect all types of waste. The kitchen waste and all organic waste gets composted and the recyclables go to authorised recycling centres. Apart from this service they also buy your old shoes, furniture, clothes, plastic etc., with their ‘Sell us your junk’ initiative.

Waste Ventures is another similar enterprise in Hyderabad that does a door to door collection of organic and inorganic waste. They are involved with residential societies as well as corporates. High quality organic compost is generated out of the waste and sold in sites such as Amazon. To date they have averted 1300 plus tonnes of waste going to landfills and generated about 110 plus tonnes of compost. Apart from recycling, they also work with a higher motive of improving the lives of the rag pickers by creating new sources of incomes for them and increasing their income by 20%.

Tech giants recycling programmes: Tech companies like DELL, Samsung and HP in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint have their own recycling programmes that allow customers to recycle their electronic equipment. DELL has gone a step further by planning to reuse excess carbon fibre and recycled plastics in some of their Latitude and Alienware products.

Apps to the rescue: For the time conscious, there is the easy convenience of apps too. The Pom Pom app that operates in South Delhi has an app for android and iOS. The app lets you give away your recyclables like paper, glass, bottles, cardboard, metal etc. It lists the price of wares, allows you to schedule a suitable pickup for your items and makes your life hassle free. Their prices are listed at their website too. With an electronic weighing scale to measure the trash, you are sure to get a fair deal. The plus point is that they segregate and sort the trash for you and then send it to recyclable units in the city. Encashea too works similar to Pom Pom but in the Bangalore area. It is an app meant for android devices and people can dispose of their e-waste, newspapers, books, plastic etc.

Another application is ScrapApp that goes one step further. It not only pays you for the scrap, but it also donates 50% of the revenue to Grow Trees foundation. So you are indirectly adding to the tree cover in your city.

So now you have plenty of excuses to recycle. There is bound to be some or the other recycling initiative buzzing in your city where you can dispose off your trash, safely reducing your carbon footprint. Recycled materials are often less energy intensive on the environment.


Usha Hariprasad

Usha Hariprasad is a freelancer who is fond of travelling, discovering new places and writing about travel related destinations around Bangalore at Citizen Matters. Currently, she works in a trekking organisation.