Turning India’s trash into treasure, improving public health and economy in the process.
In undeveloped nations, 30-60% of the waste produced goes uncollected. As almost half of urban populations are not served by any waste management system, most of the garbage is dumped openly in the streets. In urban India alone, the already amassed quantity of 40 million tons of trash is growing by about 2 million each year.
Waste pickers and small scale local contractors try to tackle the problem, but are rather ineffective since working in an unstructured manner. Furthermore, waste pickers risk their health by sorting through landfills and roadside dumps for resalable scrap, earning as little as $ 1.50 a day, which is hardly enough to feed a family, not to mention to pay for children’s tuition fees.
On a micro level, the usual handcarts cost about 10,000 Indian rupees (equivalent to $ 200), being unaffordable for most waste pickers. To address this issue, Waste Ventures developed a basic cart model that can be produced locally for lower costs of merely 7,000 rupees ($ 140).
On a meso level, corruption remains common in India. To avoid this practice, Waste Ventures collaborates with locally established NGOs and already existing groups of waste pickers.
Finally, on a macro level, Waste Venture aims at better coordination of waste management to address major issues such as public health and climate change that cannot be solved by the current unstructured efforts of local contractors and independent waste pickers.
The basic idea behind Waste Ventures is scale. Corresponding to a worldwide problem of rotting waste the initiative proposes a worldwide solution. Their projects in several cities across India shall serve as an example to cities and municipalities.
Beyond that, the ultimate goal is to create a worldwide bottom of the pyramid solid waste management market though sharing and disseminating knowledge, particularly their blueprint of environmentally sound and socially responsible waste management. Furthermore, Waste Ventures encourages waste pickers to collaborate as entrepreneurs. Here again scale is a crucial aspect of the business model, as it enables access to international carbon credit markets, opening up new income streams.
While local business units are owned and operated by waste pickers, Waste Venture provides training and mentorship as well as mandatory protective clothing. Also, structured sorting units as well as composting sites are set up, increasing the rate of recoverability and allowing to compost 50-60% of waste. A door-to-door collection model enables to serve more people with waste management services and generates an additional monthly revenue stream of 60 rupees ($ 1)per household served.
Waste Ventures has two major impact dimensions. In the short run, it improves the living conditions of waste pickers and their families by providing protective clothing and sources of a decent, quadrupled wage, increasing the life expectancy by 25% and enabling the workers to send their children to school, thereby breaking the vicious circle of poverty. With currently about 15 million people globally making their living by waste picking, Waste Ventures’ ambition for scale could make a real difference.
In the long run, a measurable impact on the environment will be achieved with the potential to offset 20 tons of CO2 each year and to considerably reduce the amount of methane, a gas that is 23 times more harmful than CO2.