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Interactive Indo-German ICT platform for promoting learning, service exchange & research for waste management & recycling in urban cities


Summary / Résumé

Management of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is integral to improve sanitation condition and living quality of 377 million people (31% of total population) living in urban India. The MSW sector will add another 100 million tonnes of waste in next 13 years on the pretext of growing urban population (migration), changing lifestyles and changing consumption patterns (10). Of 62 million tons of MSW generated annually, only 15-20 % gets treated and rest lands up in dumpsites, landfills or open lands burdening vast expense of limited and costly land resources and contaminating the environment(2). Despite this situation, the Waste sector is seldom recognised as an essential utility service underpinning modern society compared to other services in India (11). Some key challenges (12) in MSW sector are: 

  • Lack of interdepartmental (water, waste & energy) cooperation (synergy) within government (ULBs)
  • Lack of incentive for source segregation
  • Lack of infrastructure and the poorly developed market for recycling and resource recovery
  • Inadequate technical & managerial expertise in the waste sector (formal training or hands-on practice)
  • The absence of linkage between science (academics & research) and practice (industries and public organisations) >lack of translational research.

Key opportunities exist in India are:

  • Existence of an informal recycling industry
  • Strong presence of Information Technology (IT) industry
  • Youth dividend (average population age-29 years by 2020)
  • Increasing political support for waste management 
  • Collaboration bet. India & Germany for vocational education and sustainable development goals
  • Availability of International climate finance for achieving global climate protection targets

Proposed Solution: Addressing multidimensional nature of challenges and utilizing existing opportunities, we wish to develop an ICT platform to enable capacity building (training), research & development (participatory) and initiate an exchange of goods & services in MSW sector. 

What actions do you propose? / Quelles actions proposez-vous?

ICT to educate, exchange & explore waste management solutions (ICT-EEE)

Service 1 Educate: The web platform will offer short e-learning certification courses to target group (customised to user needs and expertise), offer a virtual space for technical discussions, to solve assignments, and evaluation.The platform will enable intra classroom communication where students will work together on assignments between India & Germany to make it a shared learning process.

Innovative pedagogy- Unlike the conventional classroom learning, the user will learn basic concepts through an interactive online course (self- paced) while the technical training will be done through experiential classes (VR experience, game-based learning, exposure visits and hands-on training in industries, plants, etc.). Virtual reality (VR) videos will be shot in Germany to show International best reference examples of plants and processes to the trainees. A multi-directional VR experience (audio, video, smell & touch) will give the user a realistic feel and experience of MSW infrastructure (MSW processing plants, equipment, machinery, collection centre, secondary station, sanitary landfills) including those are not currently available in India for training purposes.

As Govt. of India (GoI) has already begun rolling out e-courses (case studies and basic awareness courses) to municipal corporations in India under Clean India Mission, we would not have to start from scratch. We can further streamline the existing content and create advance modules with the help of International & domestic experts. As the training process matures, we also intend to roll out advanced vocational training courses (harmonized with NSQF) for waste management by involving vocational training organisations from Germany.

The platform will also offer Swachh (clean) Premise Services (SPS) to assist target organisation in implementing principles of waste management hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle, recover and dispose) in their respective premises (urban wards, small or medium scale enterprises, apartments, etc). This is not like a consulting service where the businesses outsource some particular job or assignment to a consultant. It will rather train (e-learning) the target unit to perform (develop, implement, evaluate, improve) its own waste management plan in compliance with respective waste management rules and become a self-reliant Swachh organisation. For instance, Swachh School, Swachh campus, Swachh garden, Swachh industry, etc. SPS will also provide them post-training support until the target unit becomes self-sufficient. This will also include organising exposure visits, trainings, workshops, group activities, campaigns with the target organisation.

Innovative Digital certification- The job seekers often find it difficult to communicate their skills for a particular job. On the other side, employers have to go for third party education/qualification verification agencies to confirm the legitimacy of an employee. To deal with this issue, we will offer digital certificates based on (NSQS compliant) skill evaluation of a candidate. As the candidate clears the examination, they can continue to take advanced modules. In case the user is already aware of a particular module, they can simply skip the particular module and directly move to the exam, clear it and move to next module. As the user keeps advancing in the learning process and gains certificates of higher order, the digital code on their certificate will be upgraded. This digital code will be like a mark sheet (based on credit transfer as per NSQF) and can be accessed by the user or user’s employee anytime (based on rights to access) and improve transparency between both. Moreover, a digital certificate cannot be tampered as it is fault tolerant, encrypted, and immutable.

Integration of National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) - Currently there are standalone training programs offered by different organisations.This leads to overlap of course content and repetition which lowers user’s motivation to undergo training. Also, there is no uniformity in outcomes associated with qualifications offered by different training organisations which make it difficult in establishing the equivalence of certificates/diplomas/degrees. This problem can be solved by making digital certificates compliant to (NSQF), which has been adopted in 2013 in India. NSQF offers a credit accumulation and transfer system which allow people to move between education, vocational training and work at different stages in their lives according to their needs and convenience. NSQF has a key role in the waste sector in India as it will help in integration of informal sector by recognizing their existing skills as 'Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)' which is largely lacking in the present education and training scenario in India. At the same time, it will help in the mobility of Indian NSQF-aligned qualification holders to work in and/or relocate to other parts of the world. This kind of certification is still new in India and could be leveraged upon through this model

Service 2 Exchange: As the waste management market in India is in its nascent stage, it may not be financially viable to offer education and training as a standalone service in long run. In such a market to sustain without government support, it is important that we mobilize waste market players and generate revenue from other (in demand) services too. As this service will stimulate transactions between players in the waste market, it will also trigger the demand for skill enhancement and training to ensure quality services. Therefore, we intend to create single marketing platform for waste sector players.

This web platform (same web platform running on a separate server) will offer a single point of contact to potential players (market aggregator) interested in renting, sharing, sourcing (buyer) or supplying (seller) waste management infrastructure or services such as bins, collection vehicles, disposal services, etc. The customer (commercial/business) will get on-demand services and several alternatives to meet their demand at best prices. Alongside services, the platform will also offer a place to sell and buy bulk recyclates or recycled products. Recyclates are pre-treated clear waste streams like food waste, plastic waste, electronic waste, old rubber tyres, old furniture, etc. and recycled products are high-quality plastic granules, recycled paper boards, compost, recycled concrete or tiles, etc. 

This will stimulate a dynamic MSW services/product exchange market in the waste sector. As the recyclable market picks up on the web platform, it will provide the informal sector with an incentive to formalise and integrate into the system, which is currently a big hurdle in the waste sector (due to operating mafias). It will also offer an incentive to government to provide separate collection infrastructure for recyclables to households as they can generate revenue from the recyclables on the online market. Additionally, the consumers will be incentivised for segregation of recyclables as they can get a cross-subsidy on waste collection fee. This will integrate transparency in the system, stimulate waste management recycling businesses and reduce waste going to landfills. Kenya-based Go Recycler, India-based Gain Waste and several municipalities in Germany act as an aggregator of waste service providers.

Service 3 Explore (crowdsourcing of R&D): The website will provide a virtual R& D service platform for incubation of ideas (promote designing for a circular economy). Industries often do not have enough funds to invest in in-house R&D. They can use our platform to post their RfPs for research solutions they are seeking for specific operational issues. People, researcher, students will be invited to post solutions (proof of concept) in response to the RfPs. Say for. E.g. if an industry is facing problems to find leak-proof material for dustbin manufacturing in India, we will post it as a challenge for people to work on it. The industry will then select the solution provider and work collaboratively on a project-basis mode in our partner laboratories.This will generate numerous ideas on solving a single problem.  At the same time offer a low-cost R&D support to the industry with no risk of research failure. If the idea is successful at this stage or proven, the winner will be rewarded. and offered an opportunity to work on this project to further develop a prototype).

To roll out this project, we will take following steps:

  1. Market study and characterisation of MSW industry
  2. Skill gap assessment of targetted beneficiaries
  3. Developing the network of experts involved in education, exchange and exploration (EEE) activities 
  4. Developing a modular curriculum for individual’s capacity building in MSW sector based on real market needs and experiences
  5. Development of ICT platform
  6. Conduct pilot tests in 2 cities
  7. Evaluation & improvement
  8. Final Implementation

Alongside the steps listed above, we would like to test waters by bootstrapping our first idea in coming months 'The Waste Express'. It will be our first modern mobile learning centre (Bus) which will run on sponsor's funding. For this short training, we will leverage from existing expertise in the waste sector and create a VR learning experience on wheels with our team. This will include a 3D exhibition with a guided VR tour (10-15 min) on 'What happens to my waste' inside the bus. VR will take the user into a reverse waste supply chain, starting from a dumpsite (showing how waste impacts our surrounding environment and human life), bringing them to the secondary collection point and then household, making them think of their disposal behaviour and bridge an emotional connect with waste.The bus parking area can be used as activity space. The Waste Express Training will be offered to school & college students, resident welfare societies and municipalities.

Which types of stakeholders are involved, in which way? / Quels types de parties prenantes sont impliqués, de quelle façon?

1. Project Management Board: will provide strategic directions to the project, ensure that the project is progressing according to the work plan. It will include govt. members like National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) for green jobs & central ministries (Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Ministry of Skill Development, Ministry of Labour & Ministry of Environment, forest & climate change).

Regulatory & Accreditation bodies will guide training curriculum quality, set exam regulation and issue certificate.

2. Project Management Unit: Lead partners of this activity will be Waste Decoder team, TU Dresden (HEI), SBS vocational training company from Germany, IT Delhi (HEI), National productivity council. They will have a maximum volume of work as they will handle the broad management of the project. This will involve in tasks such as developing detailed DPR, mobilizing stakeholders, prepare & conducting consortium meetings & follow-ups, provide the central accounting/financial support, advice partners' finance staff on rules and keep an eye on adherence to the planned budget, lead the equipment procurement, etc.

3. Chair of Working group: waste management experts from India & Germany will be mobilized to form Waste Management Network. This network will develop course content and guide research &development related projects.

4. Co-Chair of Working group will support activities of the chair and conduct capacity assessment, market research study and any such supporting task.

5. Steering committee will involve all the indirect stakeholders like Waste management service providers (enterprises, Industries, plants, companies). These industrial plants will support by offering their premises. They will also be a key beneficiary of this program as they will get support from experts to improve their waste management system. The Indian ITC company will develop platform.

How could the actions be scaled up at the neighborhood or city level? / Comment serait-il possible d'augmenter la portée des actions à l'échelle des quartiers ou de la ville?

The pilot activities will be run in one city (Delhi) and will then be scale up across Indian cities starting with Bangalore, Pune & Chennai and later to other cities.

Scaling up will be supported by stakeholder mapping and market analysis that will be done in every target city and based on the market situation. The expansion of the web services may not be difficult but to make sure local utilization of waste is prioritised over a long distance, regional networks will be made robust before moving to other cities.

As more than 100 cities are gearing up to implement new laws, this plan has a potential to provide promising solutions to several municipalities and may motivate them to take it up.


What impact will these actions have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change? / Quels impacts auront ces actions sur la réduction des émissions de gaz à effet de serre et l'adaptation aux changements climatiques?

Landfilling is the single biggest contributor to carbon emissions in MSW sector reaching 81.2 MT (5). This proposal is expected to prevent landfilling of waste and promote reuse, recycling and recovery as a resource. The emission reduction in this project will occur at several stages:

1. As part of SPS service, we will train organisations to use Resource efficiency Assessment Tools (13) and estimate their economic & environmental (carbon emissions) costs savings (unique selling point). The emission factors for recyclables like aluminium cans (1113kg CO2e/t), paper (1576 kg CO2e/t), Glass bottles (651 kg CO2e/t), Fluorescent tubes (518 kg CO2e/t), etc. clearly show the great potential of emission reduction in Indian waste (14). Similarly, average per capita food wastage footprint of a South Asian is 350Kg CO2 and 60% of Indian waste is organic, therefore a high mitigation potential exists in the organic stream as well.

2. Direct Training and Education have a significant psychological impact on the behaviour of individuals. Therefore, the impact of training on the reduction of GHG emissions is expected to be phenomenal. This can be measured by tracking post-training performance of trainees in terms of recycling behaviour at home or at the office, projects undertaken, positions led, publications released, training delivered to others, etc.

3.When businesses exchange products & services, an online tracking algorithm will be integrated to map GHG emission reduction using product or service lifecycle emission values.

4. We will also consider the life cycle impacts of products that we buy. For instance, we know that a google pixel 2 phone (VR equipment) will have an approximate 66.4 kg Carbon Dioxide equivalent impact over a period of 3 years. This is one of the most sustainable phones on the planet and hence our choice of equipment also has to be sustainable.  



What are the other environmental, economic or social benefits? / Quels sont les autres bénéfices environnementaux, économiques et sociaux?

Environmental Benefits

Improved awareness about waste, recycling & circular economy aspects

Environmentally sound waste treatment & recycling practices (reduce, reuse, recycle)

Environmentally sound business practices as more and more organisations become Swachh (less waste discharge, segregation at source, reuse of material, recycled products, less virgin material use, CSR support for recycling)

Socio-Economic Benefits

For Industries, Businesses and Employers:

  • Qualified professionals
  • Better plant efficiency
  • New markets for recycled products and waste management services
  • Better environmental procedures  & compliances within organisations
  • Reduced cost of R&D
  • Increased attractiveness of waste industry

For Workforce, employees and students

  • Higher recognition (Well defined job roles)
  • Stable employment & decent salaries
  • Reduced accidents & health expenses
  • Reduced risk of unemployment
  • Low Attrition rate

For Governments

  • Higher tax revenues from workers + reduced spending on labour health insurances > Better economy
  • Better solutions for segregated waste streams > Less expenditure on landfills
  • Low risk of state invested  plant failures
  • Better employment opportunities> productive people > Better society
  • Skilled workforce> Boost Industrial landscape> Higher FDI interest
  • Better enforcement of regulations 

What are the most innovative aspects and main strengths of this approach? / Quels sont les aspects novateurs et les principales forces de cette approche?

  • Strength- User survey
  • Our model is asset light as all the services will be offered through a novel interactive ICT platform which ensures sustainability of the project and will not limit customers by distance, time, etc.
  • The model is financially sustainable and is not dependent on any single service for revenue (as it intends to generate revenue from multiple services offered)- and would only require capital support to establish the project once.
  • It is first of its kind platform which emphasises on the coherence of market needs (offering a single platform to offer and buy services and products) in a fragmented MSW management market.
  • The proposed project will be first cross-sectoral knowledge exchange platform between German (waste management leader) and Indian experts working in SWM sector. The training course developed by them will offer recognition to trainers & trainees in both domestic & international market. It is well understood that the cultural and economic differences are significant among two markets, therefore, no duplication of technologies or concepts is targetted. Rather, new training content and adapted technology options considering Indian market & stakeholder's needs will be developed.
  • Readiness of ICT platform to mobilize stakeholders

What are the proposal’s projected costs? / Quels sont les coûts projetés de la proposition?

The cost estimates are a based on an average of 3 quotes which we asked from different companies

  1. Huma Resource (Expertise)- 90,000
  2. Travel Costs- 20,000
  3. VR equipment *- 3000
  4. VR Video production-35000
  5. Classroom projector-700
  6. E-learning Platform- 232,000
  7. Service exchange platform-150,000
  8. R&D Support- 12000
  9. Web Maintenance costs -40,000

     Total proposed costs - 582,700 Euro

*VR Equipment - VR headset (inclusive backup equipment)- €2000 (2x Samsung Galaxy S9/pixel 2 XL handsets and 2x Samsung Gear 2/Google Daydream view VR), Wireless headphone (with noise cancellation): € 700 (price considered for 2x Bose QC35),  2 google chromecast at €40 each= €80

What are the potential challenges or obstacles? / Quels sont les défis ou les obstacles potentiels?

We might not find the trainees interested to take up waste management or recycling courses in the beginning as the market is in nascent stages. (therefore, we first want to create a market linking platform)

  • The funding for initial training should come from the Indian government, which could be a big barrier as such findings are limited and short-lived. 
  • The informal sector enterprises who hold the recycling market in India may not be educated enough to take benefits of such a platform
  • Industries may be sceptical to offer their premises for training and may not be comfortable to open to the public.
  • Complexity in service offering: A single platform for both training, consulting & exchange services might create management and promotion issues therefore based on user experience and internal response, we might create two separate entities (knowledge platform for consulting & training and service platform for exchange services). Moreover, This would also be done in two stages, not simultaneously as it requires significant organisational effort.

About the authors / À propos des auteur(e)s

Dr Santosh Kumar Prusty, PhD is an Assistant Professor (Strategic Management) at Indian Institute of Management Shillong, India. He is guiding the strategy development and financial sustainability of this project.

Shivali Sugandh is a consultant with innate entrepreneurial interests and passion for environmental protection from India. As a recipient of International Climate Protection Fellowship for the year 2017-18 by Humbolt Foundation, she has conceptualised the idea and developing implementation plan of the project.

Nautasha Gupta is a recent graduate from University of Florida, USA. Driven by her passion for waste mgt. , She is guiding both digital innovation and financial aspects of the project.

Tanuj Chawla


References / Références

  1. Adelphi (2015) Feasibility Study for a Waste NAMA in India.
  2. Annepu, R. K. (2012) ‘Sustainable Solid Waste Management in India’, Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University, pp. 1–189. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-4451-73-4.
  3. CPCB (2015b) ‘Consolidated Annual Review Report on Implementation of Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000’, 8(2).
  4. Gupta, N., Yadav, K. K. and Kumar, V. (2015) ‘A review on current status of municipal solid waste management in India’, Journal of Environmental Sciences (China). Elsevier B.V., 37(April 2016), pp. 206–217. DOT: 10.1016/j.jes.2015.01.034.
  5. Gazette of India for National Skills Qualification Framework-
  6. ICLEI (2013) ‘National Level GHG Estimates for the Waste Sector’.
  7. Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (2015) ‘Skill Development in India’, Ficci, pp. 0–73.
  9. MOUD. (2013). JNNURM Toolkit for Comprehensive Capacity Building Programme Ministry of Urban Development Government of India.
  10. Prusty, S. K., & Purbey, S. (2017). IIIM Shillong?: A Model for Designing Sustainable Community Based Enterprise TVET ( CETVET ) System in India, (10), 1–19.
  11. PC (Planning Commission) (2014) ‘Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy ( Volume I)
  12. Pixel 2 Product Environment report
  13. Planning Commission (2012) ‘Report of the Working Group on Capacity Building for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-15).
  14. TERI. (2015). The Energy and Resources Institute Capacity Building for Building a Sustainable, (June)
  15. Turner, D. A., Williams, I. D. and Kemp, S. (2015) ‘Greenhouse gas emission factors for recycling of source-segregated waste materials’, Resources, Conservation and Recycling. Elsevier B.V., 105, pp. 186–197. doi: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.10.026.
  16. VDI Resource Check for operations & Buildings: