02-Sep-2015 # Clean India

Sandeep Patel is a social entrepreneur engaged in the ‘Let’s Recycle’ initiative of NEPRA Resource Management – a waste management and recycling company working towards bringing in transparency and scalability to the Indian waste management industry.

The firm works on the principle of directly benefiting waste pickers and other base of the pyramid stakeholders and rewarding all who divert waste to recycling instead of landfilling.

India Inc. spoke to Patel to share the company’s broad vision and how it has been plugging into the Narendra Modi led government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India mission.

How can India turn waste into an opportunity?

Waste in India is an over $20-billion opportunity if exploited in right way. Waste is a Resource which has multiple opportunities if recycled. The Impact of the Swachh Bharat Campaign, if channelled in right way, can be felt on Make in India, Skill India, and Entrepreneurship Development and ultimately help generate employment and entrepreneurs in waste management.

The government needs to create an ecosystem with urban local bodies (ULBs), banks and entrepreneurs to use existing government and financial schemes for making the best use of the Waste Management opportunity. India generates over 1,83,000 MT/day, means daily we are wasting an opportunity to employ over 100,000 people in the sector. Once the right ecosystem is created, the government may not have to spend a single penny after an initial thrust for the initiative.

What are some of the positive developments in waste management?

Indian PM Modi has taken an amazing and positive step with the launch of Swachh Bharat campaign. Under his leadership, his team will soon come out with a new policy for waste management. If along with the implementation of the same, the eco-system to support entrepreneurs and large players in the sector such as appropriate viability gap funding and incentives is created, that will be a great positive. People are concerned, but still not accountable.

In your view, is the Clean India mission on track?

I think government is on track, it’s the we as people who are behind. We need to start expecting better services and be ready to pay for it. There is no standard answer to waste, hence the government will have to be like a venture capital player and bet on multiple solutions. Some will fail but people will have to learn to support the initiative.

How can we ensure our smart cities are also smart with waste management?

While we design smart cities, appropriate allocation of space for infrastructure for management of waste should be made available. Innovation from entrepreneurs with a sustainable business model must be encouraged.

Use of technology in waste management is needed, especially in collection. The failures do not lie with the waste processing technology, but in collection and the attitude of people. Smart solutions must be provided to encourage more participation. Every establishment and building must submit its waste management and recycling plan for regular inspection by authorities.

Smart systems should be introduced to reward good behaviour and penalise inappropriate behaviour towards handling of waste by generators.

Please give an overview of your own group’s strategy on recycling  

NEPRA sees huge opportunity in India and continues to focus on India expansion. NEPRA started as a waste management company to collect, segregate and send waste to authorised recyclers.

Today it has adopted an eco-system approach for a zero waste approach, where NEPRA creates entrepreneurs in collection, helped with custom-made mobile-phone apps for waste collection. The technology is designed to run like e-taxi on demand services Ola or Uber in the waste management industry.

Modern customised Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) managed by supervisors armed with tablets running software collect and transmit data at each point, sending information to various recyclers of expected input material coming their way as raw material.

NEPRA has become an eco-system facilitator more than a waste management company, helping reduce the cost to ULBs by making the whole model self-sustainable.

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