Given the size of our country and its population, waste management is a major issue in India. Currently, the country’s garbage generation stands at about 0.2 to 0.6 kgs of garbage per head, per day. While, Swacch Bharat Abhiyan is working towards garbage disposal, and NexusNovus is opening up the idea of waste management in the country, the solutions are far too few and fragmented.
Entering this fray in the recent years is ExtraCarbon. The present scenario of inadequate waste management, poorly controlled open dumps, and defragmented and unorganised industry practices prompted Gaurav Joshi and his team to start ExtraCarbon.
ExtraCarbon is a waste management company, which allows individuals to recycle waste, sell second- hand items, and make eco-friendly choices everyday. Typically, the waste disposal in India, involves collecting waste and garbage from across different parts of the city and dumping that in a landfill. When a landfill is full a new one is found.
Therefore, the need for new landfills is ongoing. According to estimates given by the Energy Research Institute, over 1400 sq km of land space will be required by 2047 for waste dumping.
India versus the rest of the world
Globally, recycling is taken up not only by small social entrepreneurs, but also big conglomerates. Across the world, the initiative of using recycled plastic to create sturdy plastic fencing poles has helped keep forested areas safe. Another example is of Netherlands, which has recycled 64 per cent of its waste, and closer home, Thailand, has managed to use 22 per cent of its waste.
It was this differentiation that seemed odd to Gaurav. When studying in UK, Gaurav saw that the western world not only managed their waste well, but also used it as an asset for resource management. “In the year 2011, when I came back to India, there were few takers for this idea but I found strong support from a friend, Anant. Like me, Anant also quit his well- paying job to dedicate his life to this vision to see a clean India with smarter cities,” says Gaurav.
The initial years
The duo knew that they were looking at an uphill task, as there were no waste management institutes or organisations. “For building our team we got in people from other sectors. Many were reluctant to join a startup dealing in waste management,” adds Gaurav.
The duo faced resistance at every stage, even the resident welfare associations (RWA) were not accepting and open to their ideas. Says Gaurav: “Most of the RWAs saw us as regular kabadiwalas or safai-karamcharis. It took time to change their perception. But things improved when users were introduced to our web services to book services online.”
Initially, the team had to pool in their resources as they could not get investors who were keen on the project. “We were able to align our financial plan with our strategy only after we met enablers like Valpro,” says Gaurav.
Despite initial challenges, today, ExtraCarbon has over 16,000 users and are registering over 100 new users every day. They are presently operational in Delhi, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, Noida, and Ludhiana. By this year end, they will be operational in 20 cities. While, ExtraCarbon deals with the selling of used items, it is not a marketplace for second-hand goods. They provide a quote and buy the items from customers and then refurbish the items for selling.
ExtraCarbon has started integrating kabadiwalas in the city and assigning them larger communities under their Green Superhero program. They also claim to have brought transparency in the process of collection by introducing electronic weighing scales. By removing middle men between recyclable waste collectors and manufacturing units, they have brought in uniform and fair pricing.
“We have enhanced user experience by introducing call centres, and taking waste pick-up requests through electronic media like WhatsApp, SMS messages, phone calls, emails, and websites,” says Gaurav. Recently, they have started taking surveys to check the quality of service ExtraCarbon is providing.
ExtraCarbon aims to create smart cities where waste is used for energy generation and plantation. They also plan to set-up compost plants in societies, corporates, and retail malls. Apart from this, they are also looking at setting up super and mega warehouses that are capable of sorting and recycling dry recyclable materials.
Gaurav concludes by saying that they aim to create Green Superheroes for door-to-door collection of recyclable waste and second-hand items: “We would like to introduce our app for location-based services where customers can find our nearest the Green Superhero. This will help municipalities decrease waste disposal costs and ExtraCarbon to become an end-to-end platform to reduce waste and carbon footprints.”