I hope this project update finds you happy and well.
As we work towards our goal of shifting the entire waste management sector to introduce sustainable practices, and include waste pickers, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to accelerate our rate of change. We recognize that this is a huge task that we can’t do alone, no matter how many of India’s 5,000 Motihari-like towns we are able to reach.
While there are other waste management service providers already operating in some parts of India, they often fail to do more than secondary collection and dumping of the waste. (Secondary collection is when waste is taken from set ‘transfer stations’, instead of the from in front of the house itself). As a result, much of the waste is left uncollected because the households don’t consistently get it to the transfer point. The portion of waste that is collected is not processed, but just dumped, as contracts are structured to pay for ton of waste taken to landfill. Worse yet, this payment structure pits waste companies against informal waste pickers, as waste pickers decrease the volume of waste dumped, and thus decrease the companies’ revenue stream.
Despite the broken system that these waste companies propagate, they already have an expansive presence in 40-50 of India’s largest cities. In April, Waste Ventures launched a Fellowship program to place environmentally focused business-savvy professionals with progressive waste companies interested in implementing positive change to the waste sector. Our Fellows come from top-tier consultancies and financial services backgrounds, are driven by a passion to build environmentally sustainable businesses, and are constantly looking for problems to solve. They are paired with the strategy team of our partner waste companies in India, analyzing their operations and local markets for opportunities to introduce sustainable processing, and to include the informal sector. Not even two months into the program, we already have three proposed business-model transformations on the discussion table – all of which hold opportunity to increase waste recovery by over 30%, double informal waste picker involvement, and all while improving company revenues.
As we continue to develop our own projects that employ waste pickers and serve India’s smaller towns and cities with low-tech waste solutions, we look forward to this new opportunity to tackle the waste issues in India’s mega-cities as well. ‘The more the merrier’ couldn’t be more true as we seek to leverage the combined strength of organizations across the sector, in a bid to shift short-sighed ‘collect and dump’ practices to adequate recovery and reuse of India’s 120,000 daily tons of waste.
If you have any ideas on how to further accelerate our rate of change, would like to participate in the Fellowship Program, or just want to say hi, you can always reach us at any of the following:
Thank you for being a part of our journey!
All the best,
Tiffany and the Waste Ventures team
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