Making waste pay the Indian way

Making waste pay the Indian way
Making waste pay the Indian way

Pom Pom is cashing in on a very traditional Indian concept of 'kabadi' or selling your waste for money. As a concept deeply rooted in the Indian ethos, it has found an easy fit with the Clean India programme. The idea of individuals selling their waste and making money out of it has always existed in India, and many developing countries for that matter. Even if the individual household doesn't directly recycle, there is an informal system running at the grass root level that taps into this waste. But the industry is fragmented & informal, and certain items see a higher recycling rate than others. We feel that a lot of other materials like paper and plastic packaging, milk packets, bottles, etc. end up getting trashed because people don't store these materials and don't realise they are recyclable. Many times this material also gets contaminated and eventually ends up in landfills. Pom Pom believes that if every Household, School, Corporate etc is given a small incentive to store their dry waste and start segregation at source of materials other than just newspapers, it can go a long way for the recycling industry in India. Pom Pom is working towards educating Individual homes, Residents Welfare Association (RWAs), Corporates and Schools about the importance of segregating and recycling even the smallest item. Indians are used to getting incentivised for their waste due to the existing kabadiwala (waste collectors) system. In fact, this system has helped recycle a large volume of waste informally. Example, newspapers are one item that everyone sells. But we still feel some items escape the system because of a lack of link up to the end recycler. Hence individuals don't segregate these items and they don't end up getting recycled by and large. Pom Pom wants to change that: We want you to recycle even the smallest shred of paper in your house or a price tag. We want households to start recycling for the monetary benefit as well as the environmental impact in terms of energy saving and resources. If you actually look at the Zara price tag and shopping bag, it carried a recycle sign. It doesn't matter how small an item is. It has still been manufactured using energy and resources and it should reach the correct recycler. But we believe India has not yet caught up to the tech potential of waste management. But that's changing very quickly. In the developed countries tech is used from collection of waste to processing of waste and such innovative technologies are coming to India. India is a country where statistics claim that people have more access mobile phones than bathrooms. We see tech has a huge potential. We do get orders from our website & our 'Pom Pom Trash to Cash' App available on android and iphone. Also, we feel that technology will play a large role in our planning and logistics in the future. For a venture like Pom Pom, the Swachh Bharat campaign really helps because it is making citizens aware about cleanliness and keeping their surroundings clean. People are realizing the importance of not littering around them. In addition, we see that Swachh Bharat has led schools and corporates to think more of sustainability issues and the environment in general. We have even started 'Recyclable Collection Drives' in schools to encourage children to segregate waste and start recycling. Considering that citizens are now aware and impacted by Swachh Bharat, Pom Pom wants to go one step ahead. We want citizens to think about 'WHAT HAPPENS' to their waste once it goes to a dustbin or after it is cleaned from their premise. We see that many citizens are conscious and want to do their bit for the environment. This is where Pom Pom steps in. We want to give every environment friendly citizen/corporate an option to recycle well.

We want people to start segregation at source and realize that their waste has the potential to be a factory's raw material. We see potential in waste! India has a strong informal recycling industry running, but this needs to be formalized. In addition each and every individual needs to segregate at source. In addition, with the new Solid Municipal Waste management rules being implemented, waste as an industry will come to focus. We also see more investments in waste to energy plants, recycling plants, material recovery facilities, treatment of e-waste and formalizing this sector as a whole. We hope that Swachh Bharat makes Indians more environmentally friendly and aware. A lot of emphasis is being laid on sustainability now. Segregation at source has become mandatory in many cities which is very good step. This is the starting point of a Clean India. In addition, adequate infrastructure in terms of clearly labeled bins in public spaces and a strong collection system needs to focused on. There should be policies that encourage use of environment friendly packaging material among manufacturers of different products. Individuals and corporates need to be sensitized to waste and emphasis needs to be laid on educating people about waste, benefits of recycling and end uses.

Kishor K. Thakur is the COO and co-founder of Pom Pom, an Indian web-based recycling platform. He completed his BCom from Delhi University & Graduated from Indian Military Academy and served in the Indian Army. He has been in the waste management sector for many years.

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