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To effectively address the growing waste management issue in Indian cities by enabling people to recycle the wastes diverted to landfills




Solid waste disposal is a major issue in all Indian cities. There are growing number of individuals who want to contribute towards solving the issue but have no effective avenue to do so. Although local governments are trying to establish a successful waste management program but with very little success. Reasons for failure being: Scope of work, lack of infrastructure & expertise. As these projects fail, public has no motivation  to manage their wastes in a responsible manner which includes waste segregation.


We propose to bring together motivated individuals, businesses, NGOs and other players to establish a successful example to manage waste. In Phase 1 we will target the wet-waste, as it contributes the most to GHG emissions in the landfills. A system to utilize the wet-waste to generate compost will be set up. Once the successful channel is established and as the public awareness increases , more people would participate in the program in the program. Hence,the segregation of waste at-source will increase. Mixing of waste at source is a current hurdle in the waste management chain and this initiative will address the issue. With increase in private sector participation, waste management will improve. Reasons being-smaller scope of work targeting fewer clients, technical expertise, increased public participation due to visible end results.


The startup will partner with local players for specific actions such as- collection of wet-waste from motivated individuals, composting the waste either at-site or at the identified locations and selling the compost. Individuals will be charged nominally for this service and will be provided with bins and garbage bags. The waste collected at frequent intervals will be composted and sold to the identified customers. Further a B2B business platform will be created to bring together different players involved in the waste management chain for different wastes. A web-based map will be further added for each city. 

Category of the action

Reducing emissions from waste management

What actions do you propose?

Background: Waste, a Misplaced Resource

As it is a well known fact that waste is nothing but a misplaced resource, the solid waste generated in cities can be a good source of useful materials, one such example being compost if the wet-waste is segregated and managed in the right way. With the growth of cities and the increasing consumption per person, waste generated per person in cities is on a rise. There have been many attempts by the city governments to address the issue but such initiatives have been unsuccessful. There are also many private entities who are trying to address the issue but are working in silos and not addressing the complete chain of waste management i.e from the point of generation to the point of disposal or point of treatment. But there are many motivated individuals who want to contribute. There are many examples in the cities where individuals are taking actions but then at a certain point in the they hit a barrier from where they cannot proceed any further.

There are many successful examples in developed countries of successful wet-waste recycling ventures. And we are looking at replicating recycling and management programs by making changes as required by the local conditions in each different city in India. 

Also, we are looking at creating a platform to bring together various entities working in silos in a more meaningful manner. By this we mean that each entity would be classified based on what service they provide and what kind of wastes they deal with or in which region do they do they operate or what is the scale of operation and so forth. Collecting and providing such meaningful information will make it easier for the stand-alone parties to search for other parties and tie-up with them to complete their chain of waste management.

The Solution: Leveraging Motivated Individuals

Our idea is to collect the wet waste and convert it into compost which can be used to develop green spaces within and at the periphery of the cities, in both private and public spaces. Segregation of waste into wet waste and dry waste is the major hurdle faced by the local governments every time they initiate any such measures. But, we also know that the awareness about the waste-related issues is growing among the public as the issues of waste disposal are coming forth and becoming obvious to many. As the cities are running out of open spaces to dump their wastes and the villages at the outskirts are facing the consequences of open landfill disposal near to their living spaces, the opposition to such a haphazard and irresponsible method of disposal is increasing.  

As people are willing to be a part of the solution rather than being the source of the issue, creating such a platform would enable them to contribute. For example anyone interested in composting the wet waste generated in their household may face following problems- 1. Has no space to compost 2. Does not have the expertise 3. Does not know what to do with the compost. Due to these reasons even the people who are genuinely interested in segregating the waste and addressing this problem as a whole get demotivated. Given their past experience, they do not trust the fact that city governments would handle the waste responsibly even if they segregate the waste as required had they have witnessed  .

And these are the issues which our proposed actions would address. We would give a platform to the motivated individuals in the cities to be a part of the solution. We will collect the waste, identify composting locations within and at the outskirts of the city, convert the waste into compost and sell to the identified consumers within and outside the cities. There is a growing trend of organic farming in India and those farmers can be one of the potential end users of the compost . Once this chain is established, we plan to establish a website for B2B Service wherein all the businesses in the waste management sector can register themselves on the website and look for other partners. For example someone who owns certain land and wants to lease it for composting or organic farming purpose can look for composting teams or organic farming teams. Entities working in every step of waste management process can list themselves and locate partners.

Problems Addressed:

  1. Waste segregation: Our consumer would segregate and sell/donate the waste to us

  2. Disposal: Waste will be collected and managed to produce compost

  3. GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions: Aerobic decomposition would reduce GHG emissions as compared to the anaerobic decomposition in the landfills

  4. Land conservation: As there will be reduction in the wet-waste diverted to the landfill, less land area will have to be used for landfilling purposes

Additional Benefits:

  1. Facilitate organic farming by producing and supplying compost to the green spaces within and outside the city (natural fertilizer)

  2. Behavioral change: As people start participating in this program, more and more will be influenced to handle their wastes responsibly as the platform is available to make their contribution

  3. Social benefits: We plan to recruit marginal farmers at the outskirts of the city to either lease us their lands or be our partners in the composting. We will train them and, if required, also provide trained people. We plan to recruit people from the villages itself as it provides them an opportunity to learn new skill and gain financial benefits.

Actions Required:

  1. Set up a website/call center ( Languages- English/ Hindi/ Kannada)

  2. Lease transport vehicles

  3. Define the areas of the city which we would target phase-by-phase

  4. Identify places to carry out composting of wet wastes

  5. Recruit composting space partners - marginal farmers/ interested individuals with land

  6. Locate potential customers willing to buy the compost generated

  7. A nursery where the compost generated can be used and ultimately the saplings can be sold - provide 2 complimentary saplings to the clients and sell the saplings to the potential buyers

  8. Supply our consumers with bins and disposable garbage bags

  9. Create more awareness about the program to enroll more people into this program

Specific details: Process flow

Clients inquire about the service > Company registers address and other details > Provides complimentary bins and garbage bags >  Periodically collects the wet waste > Transport the waste to the identified locations within or in the outskirt of the city > Check the waste > Compost the waste > Collect monthly nominal charges from clients > Use the compost in nurseries > Provide the participants with complimentary indoor plant saplings > Sell the compost to the identified customers > Create awareness about the program and thereby make more people participate in the program.

As more number of people participate it would mean more number of people are segregating the waste i.e. wet waste can be effectively composted and thereby GHG emission from the open landfill is reduced.


Response to Judges' comments
(questions from Judges are in bold italics)

1) who is implementing the project? 
We plan to implement the project ourselves with support from various stakeholders who play key roles in the execution of the project. Our plan lays the foundation by creating a link between the stakeholders and defining their roles. 

1. Participants – Motivated individuals and business who are interested in participating in a waste management program that is currently not available to them. 

2. Waste Collectors and Transporters – A key link in the project, we would like to connect with interested NGOs and local municipalities to leverage their current resources in collection and transportation stage. 

3. Farmers/ On – Site Composters – Using a small portion of land of farmers located in outskirts of the city and providing the possibility of setting up onsite composters requires the buy in of property owners and farmer owners incentivized with a share of the revenue. 

4. Buyers of compost – We close the loop in this stage by creating a revenue source with the sale of compost. We envision urban farms and municipal gardens to partner with us on over a long period thereby sustaining the green loop. 

2) What alliances and resources do you have or wish to have? 
1. Bio bag - biodegradable bags for collection of waste
2. An online/telephonic platform to gather participants and collect information on time of collection.
3. Collection & Logistics - Waste handlers to collect waste from the participants and logistics to transport it to composting sites
4. Land to set up the composting unit
5. Packaging and transport of compost for end customer 

3) What have you already accomplished? 
We are currently in the planning stage, wherein we have developed a sustainable business proposition as a solution to the burgeoning problem of waste management and GHG reduction. As the strength of the plan relies in participation from individuals and business, we look forward to constructive criticism and support to implement the plan. 

4) Why should we believe that you will succeed in addressing this issue, where others haven't? What unique factor does your team bring to the table?  
Apart from the environmental management, business and policy skills that our team is utilizing effectively, our collaborative model will help us become successful. While most others have tried to reinvent the wheel, our focus has been on connecting the stakeholders and helping the system to operate efficiently. 

Uniqueness/strengths of the proposal: 
- Addresses the complete supply chain thus providing an end-to-end solution. 
- Taking up the wastes one-by-one. Initially targeting wet waste and then moving of addressing other wastes such as paper etc, thus ensuring realistic and tangible impact while solving problem holistically. 
- Providing a platform to people who want to contribute towards resolving the solid waste management issues in the city and enabling them as champions of change. 
- Participatory approach- we plan to work with NGOs, suburban farmers and local training institutes. Candidates from the surrounding villages will be employed and trained in composting methods. 
- By adopting a collaborative model, we will be enabling existing system to operate more efficiently. 
- Waste segregation at source, thus ensuring optimal use of resources. 

Strengths of the team: 
-Multidisciplinary team with background in environmental management, sustainable business development and public policy. 
-Experience running entrepreneurial initiatives in emerging markets and successful track record. 
-Well connected with local nonprofits, local government agencies and various other stakeholders 

5) 1 year seems like a very tight timeline to launch the project in 10 localities. What is the very first or next step you need to take in order to do this? What would you do/ask for if you won the contest? 
The city of Bangalore with an area of 741 sq km , comprises of 198 municipal wards ranging from 0.77 sq. km. to 11 sq. km. As we are proposing a for-profit business model, concentrating on at least a certain minimum number of wards is necessary in order to have a threshold number of participants to keep the project up and running. 

Once again our collaborative growth model will help us grow organically which is why we have set ambitious goals for ourselves. While we are already in touch with the nonprofit partners in Bangalore, the next step would be to formalize that relationship and get the municipality involved. 

At the beginning we would set up the website, recruit participants by advertising widely via various social media platforms. Simultaneously we would set up a composting facility site by engaging with local farmers who own lands at the outskirts of the city and are willing to participate in this project. Collection and transportation will be another area where we work on. 

Also, in order to start off the project, we would need $25,000 as initial capital to run a pilot scale project to manage two tonnes of waste per day. 

Who will take these actions?

Activity can be initiated by a Start-up group. They can partner with local parties for - Website, space for composting, compost customers- owners of green spaces within and outside the city, training agencies who can train people in composting. For most activities there are many non-profits who are already working in this area, our aim will be to connect the dots.

Where will these actions be taken?

The solution is specifically designed keeping in mind the conditions and issues in major Indian cities. In the first phase (3 years), a pilot can be run in Bengaluru (Bangalore), Karnataka, India. Bangalore has a booming start-up ecosystem as well as it hosts various NGOs which have been working on this issue and creating awareness. Apart from this, the people are willing to pay for a useful service and contribute towards social causes. The municipal corporation is also open to partnering with private players. Apart from this the contributors have personal experience living there and have existing connections who can help execute these actions. All these features seem promising for the solution to work. Once tangible results are obtained in Bangalore, we will analyze the potential class A and class B cities where this solution can be implemented. We foresee that, based on current trends, increasing number of people will involve themselves in the solution and it will grow in scope as well as scale. We believe that in 10 years, the solution will be improvised to be implementable in all urban areas in India.

What are other key benefits?

Our proposal will not just lead to waste reduction, it will have a powerful impact on job creation, spreading awareness and food production in regions where we operate. This platform will ultimately help in resource conservation by utilizing the waste. Also, by reducing the waste going in landfills, it will help in better managing the areas which have landfills and consequently decrease the chance of disease outbreaks in the communities living near those areas. Once people start seeing these real benefits more and more will become conscious and join our mission.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Emission Reduction

While landfill emissions comprise only a small portion of life-cycle emissions attributable to goods and food, they nonetheless represent a real opportunity for emissions reduction. This is largely due to the large quantities of food that is wasted and sent to landfills.

CERF (Compost Emission Reduction Factor)

CERF includes emissions reductions due to decreased water use, decreased soil erosion, and reduced fertilizer and herbicide use, as well as increased carbon storage in soil. As a result, the CERF places the emissions reduction potential of compost at 0.42 MTCO2e/ton of food scraps. (Source : EPA - Reduction of GHG through composting)

Waste from Households and Hotels : 910 Tonnes Per Day

Compostable wastes (Fermentable) :  557.7 + 189 = 746.7 Tonnes per day

Assume we collect 5% of waste : 37.335 Tonnes per day

CERF : 0.42 MTCO2e per tonne

Estimated Reduction in GHG : 15.6807 MTCO2e per day

*Equivalent to 1764 gallons of gasoline consumed or 16843 pounds of coal burned

What are the proposal’s costs?

The capital investment for building a composting plant is $ 4,476 per ton (INR 200,000) of waste processed and the compost is being sold at $ 45 – 49 per ton (INR 2,000 – 2,200). Availability of government aid and rising entrepreneurial interest resulted in an upsurge in the number of composting facilities nationwide.

Capacity of Composter 40 tones/day

Capital investment = $4476 per ton

Government Incentives = TBD

Total Capital Cost = $179,040

Operational Cost:

Trucking : INR 1500/ton = $1400/day

Labor cost : $300/day

Website/Call center cost = $4 / day

Raw Material Cost = $600/day

Revenue from sale of compost ($45/ton) = $1800/day

Revenue from membership(12000 households) = $1600 per day

Net Revenue = 3400 - 2300

        = $1100 per day

Payback (conservative estimate): 6 months

Time line

Phase 1 -Launch the program in up to 10 localities  (Bangalore) (0-1 year)

Phase 2 - Expand the program city-wide , Launch B2B Waste disposal partners website (1-3 years)

Phase 3 - Identify 5 other cities to implement the same. Expand the program to other municipal solid wastes other than wet-waste. Get more private sector players to register on the website. Liaise with local government for rebates and incentives for private sector players in municipal waste management  (3- 10 years)

Phase 4 - Target at launching the same in 10 other cities and look for solutions covering all the categories of municipal solid waste. Provide inputs for Policies addressing City Solid Waste Management -  (10- 25 years)

Related proposals

1. Homecyler- making recycling a social and collective effort,

It is a gamified point-based platform to encourage recycling and also provides reminders. As the goal is aligned with ours, we can partner with them to combine our proposals.

2. Introduce value to waste

Focus on adding value to plastic waste. Ours has a focus on wet-waste.


  1. Environmental Support Group, India, Teaching Resources Section , Last accessed 07/20/2014
  2. Sustainable Solid Waste Management in India, Ranjith Annepu, Earth Engineering Center, Columbia University, January 2012,
  3. Environmental Audit of Municipal Solid Waste in Bangalore, Ramachandra T.V., Shruthi Bachamanda, Indian Institute of Science Bangalore,
  4. Niti Central, Bangalore protest shows why India needs solid waste management, 17 June 2014, , Last accessed 07/20/2014
  5. Technical and Economic Analysis of Composting Enterprises in Bangalore - India, Urban Waste Enterprise Program (UWEP), 1998