Waste recycling goes digital

- March 3, 2024
| By : Tej Prakash Bhardwaj |

A Delhi-based start-up partnered with Wahter, an organisation focussing on packaged water, with the aim to recycle 10 million pet bottles in Delhi-NCR, making big strides towards combating plastic pollution

NETWORKING: Scrapbuddy focusses on using the existing scrapdealers' network and bringing them into a formal structure, says the founder

Recently, Wahter, an organisation focussing on packaged water, announced its partnership with Scrapbuddy, a Delhi-based startup, aimed at recycling 10 million PET bottles within the Delhi-NCR region. The move signifies a stride in the battle against plastic pollution while simultaneously fostering the production of valuable recycled goods.

In an exclusive interview with Patriot, Sachin Garg, the founder of Scrapbuddy, spoke about this collaboration, the challenges of waste collection, and the prevalent problem of poor segregation.

Our conversation with Garg delves into his journey and the founding of Scrapbuddy. He shares insights on waste management in Delhi and discusses the transformative potential of innovative waste collection strategies.

How did you conceive the idea of founding an online waste collection and segregation company?

We established Scrapbuddy in April 2023. Prior to this, I was actively involved in the waste management supply chain sector. During the pandemic, I became aware of the significant challenges that waste pickers faced, particularly in Delhi-NCR, where their collection and segregation efforts were contributing to the spread of COVID-19. This was especially true for those working around garbage yards in the city.

In my experience within the waste management system, I recognised that recycling could be far more beneficial for producers compared to repeatedly using raw materials. Hence, we conceived the concept of collecting segregated waste directly from people’s doorsteps, utilising technology to do so.

Typically, people often set aside items like plastic bottles and newspapers for scrap dealers. We urged them to expand their recycling efforts by giving us newspapers, paper, polythene, cans, PET bottles, discarded electronic items, and even old vehicles. In return, we offered a competitive price and facilitated doorstep collection. This innovative approach was the core of our business model.

What quantity of scrap have you managed to collect thus far, and what types of waste are you currently accepting?

Currently, we have implemented two primary methods of waste collection. Firstly, through our website, users can conveniently schedule waste collection from their doorsteps. Secondly, we establish collaborations with societies, enabling regular waste collection, either on a weekly or daily basis. We’ve successfully partnered with numerous societies throughout Delhi-NCR, and we’ve also joined forces with Zepto in the Delhi-NCR region.

CLEANING PROCESS: Waste-picker from Scrapbuddy picking waste

Our web interface provides all the necessary details. If the accumulated waste meets our minimum order requirement of Rs 200, users can simply arrange for a pick-up. Subsequently, our team collects waste directly from their doorstep and provides compensation accordingly. We accept all forms of recyclable waste and are even extending our services to include old furniture that can be refurbished.

Can you share details of your recent partnership with Wahter, where Scrapbuddy has pledged to recycle 10 million PET bottles?

Certainly, as part of our collaboration with Wahter, we will undertake the collection of all waste bottles they generate. The collaboration entails the systematic collection of all PET bottles generated by them. Our strategy involves deploying specialised collection carts across the city. These carts will serve as receptacles for discarded PET bottles, which we will then collect and send for recycling. This initiative will contribute significantly to our goal of recycling 10 million PET bottles and making a substantial impact on our environment.

This ambitious initiative will rely on the widespread deployment of these carts, aiming to collect and recycle a significant number of PET bottles, thereby contributing positively to the environment.

How is Scrapbuddy different from a traditional kabariwala (waste-picker)?

There is only one difference. We are focussing on using the existing kabariwala network and we are bringing them into a formal structure. We do not aim to replace them. We just want to bring some technology and make it a formal network, since this industry or network is very informal. Also, we are expanding the scope of collection of different types of waste which was earlier just limited to plastic items and newspapers.

We have brought onboard some 250 informal waste pickers from around 80 segregation centres or spots from Delhi-NCR. So, when we receive a request from a particular locality, the local kabariwala goes there, picks it, segregates it and sends to Scrapbuddy facility.  They get a profit margin out of it.

Can you provide insights into the quantity of waste that Scrapbuddy has recycled thus far?

Certainly, we have recycled over one lakh kg of waste sourced from various businesses. On a daily basis, we collect approximately 5,000 kg of waste from individual users and societies. This waste includes paper, plastic, metal, e-waste, and other materials. As part of our efforts, we have partnered with approximately five societies and around 400 homes in the Pitampura area, with the entire area operating under our collaboration. Furthermore, we extend our waste collection services to DLF Moti Nagar, Omicron society in Greater Noida, and many other locations.

Can you elaborate on the concept of ‘one-pot-for-all-waste’?

The ‘one-pot-for-all-waste’ concept is designed to create a single, comprehensive solution for waste collection. Until now, various organisations have been dedicated to specific types of waste, such as plastic, e-waste, or paper. Our vision, however, is to establish an organisation that handles all types of waste, including plastic, e-waste, paper, and even dismantled vehicles. This approach streamlines waste collection, simplifying the logistics and making it more environmentally friendly.

What factors contribute to waste becoming a significant problem in a city like Delhi, which already has three large landfills? Is it primarily due to inadequate collection, insufficient segregation, or lack of recycling facilities?

The root cause of Delhi’s waste crisis primarily lies in poor or non-existent source segregation. While there are facilities such as segregation centres and material recovery facilities, without proper source segregation, recyclable scrap or garbage becomes less recoverable. Consequently, these materials get mixed, leading to a high level of contamination or impurity. To address this issue effectively, we must prioritise proper source segregation of waste from its origin.

How much waste does Scrapbuddy recycle on a daily basis?

Scrapbuddy currently recycles approximately 5,000 kg of waste every day, with nearly 100% of the waste collected being recycled. We play a pivotal role at both the collection and segregation levels, and we maintain strategic partnerships with numerous recycling facilities. This collaboration helps alleviate the infrastructure burden associated with recycling, as different materials necessitate specific methods and infrastructure for effective recycling.

For example, cardboard collected by Scrapbuddy is recycled into new cardboard or similar items. Similarly, plastic waste is converted into small pellets, which can then be used to manufacture a wide range of plastic products. E-waste is dismantled, and its components are recycled based on a specialised process.

How many users/customers are currently using Scrapbuddy’s services?

We have two primary sources of users. The first comes from the societies we collaborate with, while the second stream comprises direct users from our website. The individual requests from the Delhi-NCR region are approximately 50, while the number of households in the societies we have partnered with is around 10,000.

What is Scrapbuddy’s broader vision for the future?

Our overarching goal is to address waste collection issues not only in Delhi-NCR but also on a national scale. We aspire to play a pivotal role in helping India achieve its Net Zero targets, ultimately striving towards a pollution-free nation.