Praveen Nayak gave up his white-collar job – a software engineer with Wipro — to launch ‘Garbage Clinic’ in 2018 in an effort to recycle daily garbage and make colonies zero waste.
Today, across India, there are 18 such Garbage Clinics, where garbage is decomposed and hundreds of people work for a living. These clinics work in collaboration with the government. The venture has a turnover of over Rs 1 crore. It has helped make Noida sector-47 the first sector in NCR to become ‘zero waste’.
“We made Noida sector-47 ‘zero waste’ in 2018 itself through our first project in NCR. We set up the machine with the help of residents and Noida authority. After six months, we handed it over to the women residents of the area. They continue to run it and that in itself defines success for us. It’s a source of livelihood for 10 people. They turn dry waste into compost and sell it,” Praveen told Patriot.
Over the past few years, waste generation has been increasing steadily due to many factors, including urbanisation, and changes in living habits. It’s one of the big challenges for the country.
According to the World Bank, India generates the highest amount of waste (277.1 million) in the world and will touch 387.8 million tonnes in the year 2030.
The government and people, however, are trying to solve this problem, running schemes and initiatives but it needs more efforts.
The government has already started a country-wide campaign, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Mission. This was initiated in 2014 to eliminate open defecation and improve solid waste management.
“There are around 2,000 households in the society (Noida). They collect waste from home and bring it to the centre. Dry and wet garbage are separated, compost is made and sold to the needy. Also, they purchase waste from ragpickers of slums,” Praveen said further.
Garbage ambulances — e-rickshaws carrying waste — go through the streets collecting waste from houses. The waste is then recycled at the plants, where wet waste is converted into fertiliser and given to nurseries and farmers while the dry waste is sold to scrap dealers.
Madhu Saran, a 64-year-old resident of Noida sector-47, set up a recycling plant with the help of Praveen and has been running this project with the help of some women from the colony.
“It was my dream to do something regarding waste. Earlier, people dumped waste outside the gate of the colony, which was bad. So we thought of solving it and the colony, especially women, supported us. Since 2018, it’s been running smoothly,” Saran said. “The ‘Green Crusader’, a women’s group, is handling this. Some women, retired from IAS and Indian Railways, play leadership roles. They also got subsidies from Noida authority for buying machines during the installation. We also did crowd-funding within the society to purchase machines,” he added.
“The authority has dedicated a park in sector-47 for its installation and running. We campaigned door to door and trained people. We asked people to put two dustbins in the house for dry and wet waste. The reason why the project is successful is because they applied it at home,” she told Patriot.
“We have a team of waste workers including seven ragpickers, two machine handlers and a contractor. We made a compost area in 1,000 square feet. HCL (Hindustan Computers Limited) also supported and gave us six vehicles with two boxes to collect dustbins. They made compost from garbage with dry leaf in a 3:1 ratio. It took around 25 days to make fertiliser and sell it at Rs 10 per kg. This earning is used in the daily expenses for machines, gloves and travel among others,” she said further.
“It is a self-sustaining project which has succeeded because it is running as the only project in Noida for the last 4-5 years. Praveen Nayak has made a big contribution in this project. He is with us as a consultant pro-bono. He suggested machines, designed sets, trained workers and has stood with us right from the start. It’s possible under his guidance because he regularly visited and guided us.”
“Our sector generates more than 1,000 kg of garbage daily. Wet garbage is decomposed while dry is sold to scrap dealers. The returns are the earnings of the workers. We have so far produced 1.5 lakh kg compost. If any problem arises, the ‘Green Crusader’ members alone solve it. My only message to all is that they should separate wet garbage from dry. It is not tough work. Wet garbage should not reach the landfill,” she concluded.
Nayak hails from Ambikapur in Chhattisgarh but is currently living in Greater Noida. He decided to get into this, following an incident. The journey was not easy and people mocked and friends left. He, however, persisted.
“I was a software engineer in Wipro Info Ltd in Noida. Then an incident happened in Delhi, which changed my mindset. In 2016-17, 4-5 people died in an accident at the Ghazipur landfill. I left my job the same day and thought about it.
“After a year, I learned about it and met the ragpickers. Then in 2018, I started a company called ‘Garbage Clinic’. In the beginning, people mocked me and stopped talking to me. My friends also left me. They thought that I am mad. They thought so because of a lack of awareness in the society. But my wife gave full support,” he added.
People’s mindset is challenge
“The Swachh Bharat Mission started in 2016 but the mindset of people even today is that they don’t want to set up a waste-site near their house or ward. So, we thought of recycling and solving this problem by developing a ‘garbage house’ where people can also sit with their families. With this mindset, we started to develop Garbage Clinic. We now have it in Maharashtra, UP and Chhattisgarh. We have approached the Central government. They listened to us after a long time and made me an advisor in the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).”
Song for waste
“Gaadi Wala Aaya, Ghar Se Kachra Nikal… this famous song was also produced by me. We shot this song in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. We make centres in areas with population of around 50,000-1,00,000 people. We also made a cooperative society of poor women, and connected them to garbage work,” he added further.
“Apart from fertiliser, we also make tiles from plastic waste, plywood, tables and chairs from single use plastic. Around 70-80 people work in a centre. So, around a thousand people are connected to this project across all centres. Our objective is that the government should install machines for organic fertilisers. If they do it in every municipality and gram panchayat, wet garbage can be easily disposed of.”
“I was the advisor in Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) till 2020 and now I work as a trainer in a workshop of government of India. I also teach the society, municipal officers about government policies regarding sanitation, garbage among others. I am also an advisor in Amity University’s Noida board of directors.”
When asked, if there is any change in people’s mindset, Praveen said, “It is tough to change people’s mindset, especially educated ones. But people’s mindset is changing slowly. Now, people come and see our clinic and are aware of it. So, we are seeing the change in society. Kids are learning, but it needs more and more effort to change. Even in Delhi, Swachh Bharat is not fully successful because it couldn’t be turned into a mass movement. Until and unless it becomes a mass movement, Swachhta (cleanliness) is not possible.”