Startups at forefront of waste management

Swachhata startups are shaping the future of sanitation. They are employing cutting-edge technology for waste management and generating employment 

Unsegregated and poor waste management leads to decline in quality of life, health and hygiene. This can be used as a potential source of energy, if utilized properly. The amount of waste generated in rural and urban areas of India depends on the population and economic conditions. Increasing usage of electronic components like laptop, computers and mobile phones is a key cause of flooding e-wastes.

Consumption of packaged products is also a cause of worry for growing plastic wastes. Solid waste management is a problem area which many cities in India are dealing with. Urbanization contributes more solid waste generation, and their unscientific handling harms the urban environment and causes health hazards. Many tourist locations with a massive footfall suffer the most.

In Tirupati City, on an average, daily around 65,000 (24 million/ year) pilgrims visit Tirumala for darshan of Lord Venkateswara and on peak days it reaches even 1,00,000 mark. Because of floating population

In Tirumala, they face a huge difficulty in maintaining two bin systems and 100 per cent segregation at source. Even places like Chandigarh are seeking solutions for source separation and solid waste collection and transfer.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in collaboration with Agence Française de Développement (AFD) launched the Swachhata Startup Challenge in January 2022 to nurture the evolving ecosystem of the Indian waste sector. Almost 244 enthusiastic startups from 23 states and Union Territories, including 100 women-led startups, working on innovative solutions in the waste management domain sent in their entries.

Out of these 30 startups were shortlisted. These startups were evaluated under four thematic areas of (i) Social Inclusion: Low-cost efficient mechanical solutions for cleaning septic tanks and sewer lines, (ii) Zero Dump (Solid Waste Management): Innovative solutions for tracking segregated door to door collection of solid waste, (iii) Plastic Waste Management: Solution of processing and recycling of plastic waste and minimizing degradation of plastic during recycling and (iv) Transparency (Digital Enablement): Tech innovations in real-time monitoring of operations in waste management infrastructure.

Startups are coming up with innovative solutions to boost sanitation and waste management in urban areas. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “India is among the largest and fastest growing startup ecosystems in the world. We in India remain open to learning from global best practices and sharing ours with others.”

The Swachhata Startup challenge was a big leap in the same direction. It gave Swachhata startups a platform to showcase their innovative solutions in source segregations, waste management, recycling of waste, value-added material creation, zero dump, robotic sanitation solutions and much more.

The top 10 startups who won the challenge received funding to the tune of Rs 25 lakhs from MoHUA and AFD as well as personalized professional and capacity-building support for a year. The winners of the Swachhata Startup Challenge are not only concerned about source segregation and waste management but they have also come up with creative and innovative solutions and products made of recycled goods, plastic, poultry waste, e-waste waste, etc.

Sanitation workers enter septic tanks or sewer lines with no or little protection and without any training or emergency support. It has always turned out to be a health hazard and their protection has been a cause of worry for a long time.

As Covid-19 broke in 2020, it added a layer of unsafe and unhealthy conditions. In August, 2022, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment launched ‘NAMASTE’ (National Action for Mechanized Sanitation Ecosystem) Scheme.

The Thiruvananthapuram-based Genrobotics Innovations has developed Bandicoot, the world’s first robotic Scavenger, using robotics and artificial intelligence, which removes the need for manual scavenging. They designed it to transform manhole to machine hole, thus rehabilitating hundreds of people working as manual scavengers as robot operators. They are currently empowering 16 city Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) refineries, corporations, housing colonies, and other areas in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, etc. Bangalore-based Cherries Engineering and Innovation India Pvt. Ltd. is producing a portable, multi-functional Sanitation Service Equipment, which pumps high-density fecal and sanitary sludge from leach-pits, septic tanks and manholes.

Bringing revolution in India’s waste management industry, the Madhya Pradesh based ‘The Kabadiwala’ is enabling users to sell and schedule free pickup of over 40 different categories of recyclable wastes. They are integrating the fragmented waste industry into one platform to organize the supply chain — transforming the linear economy into a circular economy. Managing collection of waste from households has been a huge task. And this is what is being streamlined by many solution providers and startups.

Bintix waste research from Hyderabad is tracking collection, weighing, sorting and recycling of dry waste coming from each household. Recycled products are shaping up the consumer buying behaviour these days. From hiking gear to toys for kids, consumers can find a range of innovative items made of 100 per cent recycled materials, like plastic water bottles, poultry waste, dry waste, crop residues, used cooking oil, etc. Green Delight Innovations from Coimbatore produced India’s first FDA-approved sanitary pads that are organic, plastic-free and biodegradable. Mudita and Radhesh from Jaipur transform chicken waste into handloom cloth, which is turned into clothes and accessories by tribal women and local village artisans.

Sewage water pollution and disposal has been a growing problem in India. It is impacting not just the humans but the animals and the environment. Jal Sevak Solutions from Pune just had the right solution. They recycle wastewater from bathrooms, sinks, cloth-washing and dishwashing for flushing toilets and urinals.

Almost 45 per cent of global carbon emissions come from the built environment and two billion tons of crop residues are burnt annually around the world. Visakhapatnam’s GreenJams found an innovative way of creating building bricks. They produce carbon-negative building materials out of crop residues and industrial by-products to replace conventional bricks.

Keeping in line with Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0, these start-ups are contributing immensely to save environmental pollution, helping to create innovative solutions for waste segregation, plastic recycling, making reusable products for many urban local bodies.

Not just this, they are generating employment and sources of income. They have also been coming up with technology-driven solutions that can help many workers avoid health hazards and clean sewage, septic tanks and manholes.

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