From waste to resource: companies seek to solve the problem of garbage dumping
No city wants to be known as the site of a mountain of trash. But that is precisely what greets anyone coming from the north to Delhi: a huge landfill, 50 acres wide and 60 meters high. More than a month after a fire broke out here, this giant landfill, which measures just 12 meters from the height of Qutub Minar in Delhi’s Bhalswa district, continues to emit smoke, choking the lungs of the people who live around.
Air quality has since been “very poor” in and around the region. It is the fourth fire since April. Officials say that although the fire was effectively extinguished weeks ago, rubbish that continues to be dumped on the landfill by trucks every day is responsible for the smoke.
The crux of the problem is the lack of a waste management system, which has prompted some companies to come up with innovative ideas to solve the problem.
Recity, an urban resource management company, for example, has been working for five years for effective waste management in a dozen cities.
“We diverted 53,000 tonnes of waste from the environment. On top of that, we are training 2,000 workers on how to fix the problem,” said Suraj Nandakumar, co-founder and CEO of Recity. Recity has also unlocked revenue of Rs 21 crore to improve the city’s infrastructure and supply chains.
Shayna EcoUnified, based in Noida, takes plastic waste and transforms it into high performance material in the form of High Density Polymer Composite (HDCP). These are used to make tiles, furniture and panels. These products are environmentally friendly and will not increase the already overloaded waste disposal system. The company operates in three sectors: industrial waste management, sustainable business solutions and environmental quality service.
“We have collaborated with a number of institutions such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to develop these products. These products have better structural capacity, longer shelf life, and most importantly, are recyclable,” said Paras Saluja, Founder and Director of Shayna EcoUnified.
Companies such as Gizmore, a brand of smart accessories and audio, are also tackling pressing environmental concerns, with the fight against e-waste being one of the main ones.
“Electronic waste is mostly managed by the informal sector. Most companies don’t follow any standard to address the issue as most of their waste ends up in landfills or impact the environment,” said Sanjay Kumar Kalirona, CEO and Co-founder of Gizmore. “We have set up collection and repair centers so that customers do not arbitrarily dispose of their products. We have also partnered with e-waste companies and hired third-party vendors to dispose of waste.
Separate, manage, recycle
The issue of waste management and disposal is huge. Bhalswa is just one of the capital’s dumps. The one in Ghazipur is even bigger, spanning 70 acres and dominating the skyline. Fires regularly break out here too.
Each time fires break out, each agency of the municipal authority passes the buck. Companies trying to solve the problem lament the existence of multiple agencies and departments that do not work together.
Meha Lahiri, co-founder and COO of Recity, proposed a new way of working. “The creation of a special purpose vehicle comprising people from different ministries and departments will be useful as it will link the responsibility of one department to another at several levels, which will facilitate the intervention of companies,” he said. he declares.
Companies themselves, especially tech companies, need to start checking how their products are disposed of. “The main problem with electronic waste is the lack of awareness. Companies need to provide consumers with more convenient ways to dispose of their products. These companies should encourage better trade-in or trade-in options,” Kalirona said.
Some of these waste management companies seek to collaborate with the government.
Meanwhile, separating waste is the only way to reduce the load on the landfill: separate, manage and, where possible, convert waste into resources.
Saluja said the lack of sorting of waste at the point of generation – both by households and municipal businesses – is the problem. “In municipal corporations, waste sorting is 32%; the remaining 68% of mixed waste reaches landfills,” he said. “Recity can make a difference by diverting waste from landfills and other places and putting it back into the circular economy for productive results.”
Businesses, Kalirona said, shouldn’t try to be too ambitious. Setting unreasonable waste targets and not meeting them only caused more harm. “The focus should be on the sustainable recycling of e-waste.”
Saluja believes in waste management systems adapted to different areas and needs: “In rural, densely populated and illiterate areas, awareness campaigns can be very useful. And in urban areas, scavengers need to be incentivized and penalties imposed on people who don’t sort the waste.