It won’t be an exaggeration if we say that the world right now is sitting over a giant dump yard. Years of unsegregated and non-managed waste that humans have generated is still lingering on the land and water bodies. This waste ins now generating issues previously unnoticed and uncared for. By 2050 there will be more plastic and debris in oceans than aquatic animals. The landfills are leaching polluting the soil and the air. To summarize, the situation is grave if not acted upon.
And while some people are still trying to grasp the damage that has happened, some like Deepak Maurya has gone ahead and started doing their bit for the earth. Deepak is the Founder and CEO of Scraptap, a social enterprise that is connecting Waste Haulers, Collectors, Businesses, Manufacturers, Communities and Recyclers to declare and discover recyclables and transact with few taps (mobile) and clicks (web-based platform). For Scrap Buyers, Sellers and Waste Haulers Scraptap is a platform that offers a connected marketplace for recyclables discovery, management, and movement. Unlike traditional channels, its differentiators are sustainable, efficient, cost-effective and real-time trading of recyclables.
Unearthing the Layers
Waste Management was not always on Deepak’s mind who was working in the IT industry.
Motivation struck him when he saw young kids rummaging on the top of a garbage pile in Hyderabad instead of being in school. Realizing that paying their fee would send them school, he started an NGO to support kids education. The NGO started collecting Schools supplies as donations and any household waste that could be sold so that the money would go to the kids’ education. A year into this model and issues started unfolding before them. The scalability of the model was coming to question in a Non-profit context along with the challenges in the Waste Management sector. Interactions with rag pickers and the team’s research opened their eyes to the scale of the problem on a national and global scale. Deepak adds, “This pushed us to think harder to do something that will impact at an ecosystem level rather than operating as a small-scale NGO impacting a few lives. Then we established a Private limited for-profit company in Hyderabad and got into trading waste to understand the larger ecosystem and the inter connectivity and dependencies.”
Scraptap wants to be the platform that enables fast and efficient waste discovery and movement. It connects Waste generators and Waste recyclers efficiently and wants to stick to its core competence which is technology. It is aiming to be a technology enabler to the existing ecosystem but not get into treating waste itself. We are creating consumer-centric recyclables discovery platforms which are inter-operable, scalable and can be offered as Cloud-based SaaS to Waste Management Firms It works on D2BC Model – Declare, Discover, Bid, and Collect model.
Its way of working puts it in a unique position where it is thinking at an ecosystem level impact through technology that will enable all players of the Waste management sector. What truly separates it from the rest is its belief that its passion (to make a change to the environment and bottom of pyramid (BOP) workers – after seeing numerous landfills and countless interactions with rag pickers) – will see it through. It is combining its strength in technology to meet an unmet need in the sector. The informal Waste Management sector through its ingenuity enables processing of anywhere between 2/3rd to 3/4th of the recyclable waste. What Scraptap wants to do is bring in the power of technology to better enable the existing ecosystem. Its ultimate aim is to be an enabler for the existing ecosystem to be more cost-efficient, transparent and equitable.
Working closely with the components of the industry, Deepak feels that there are challenges abound across the Post Consumer Waste Management Life cycle including:
- Segregation to Collection to Aggregation to Hauling to Recycling
- Lack of avenues to declare waste leading to undiscovered waste
- Lack of adequate pickup points, pricing transparency
- Lack of recycling plants – installed recycling capacity in India is close to 20% of what’s needed. And even they are sitting idle anywhere between 30 to 40% of the time due to challenges in the downstream collection.
- Lack of Funding
From a government standpoint – while Waste Management has gathered pace through Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules 2016, a lot more needs to be done to accelerate the progress. The government needs to provide a lot more incentives to the private sector to partner with LGU’s across the WM value chain. Waste management is an asset-heavy sector. It needs trucks, transfer stations, land, material recovery facilities, advanced recycling technologies and recycling plants. All this takes money. Unless there is a thrust towards funding / subsidizing/ incentivising private sector, it is going to be a slow journey. The Government’s Swachcha Bharat Abhiyaan is benefiting the sector with the general population warming up to the idea of cleanliness and that we need to act to keep our surroundings clean. The difference, however, comes in where Government is focussing vs where the industry’s focus is.
Industry Enablers – Technology and Young Turks
According to Deepak, “Technology can be a huge enabler in the sector. I think the new generation of those in the sector are trying to think differently and are applying modern ways of dealing with waste. Also, a lot of techies are looking at the sector to make a change.” IoT sensors in garbage bins, image recognition for segregation, software for managing trucks, routing, recycling plants could all be examples of the application of technology in the sector. But the true power is unleashed when all these come together.
He also feels that the newer generations are more environmentally conscious and are very aware of their surroundings. They are looking to make a meaningful impact on people, cultures and the environment. To such young entrepreneurs, he says, “I urge those interested to immerse themselves in the sector first to understand it and then decide if they want to come into the sector.This is a sector that needs a deep-rooted change in behavioural pattern/mindsets that have crystalized over generations at a grass-root level. And that is going to take time. Innovative thinking is needed to come up with new business models to make it attractive for capital to flow and investors to get interested.”
The Future that Scraptap Envisions
We think we are on the cusp of a huge change. And we must change. We don’t have a lot of options but to protect our planet. I think everyone is slowly aligning on that fact. This is the “what”. Now the “how” part is being worked out in the market within the policy framework set by our government. We feel very positive about the continuity and thrust in the sector.We feel the informal/fragmented sector will start to formalize slowly and bigger players will emerge. We are creating world largest cloud-based inventory of waste/recyclables through our marketplace. By 2020 we will start offering our custom waste management technology solutions as SaaS (Software as a Service) to organizations across the globe.