You give him used paper, he gives you books, and that too as barter! It almost sounds unbelievable and too good to be true. Used2Useful, launched on 26th March, 2014, is an initiative that encourages people and especially students to send in used paper, and in exchange, you can pick a book of your choice from their book library which is online and offline. If there is a book you’re particularly interested in and can’t find it in Used2Useful’s collection, you can place a request on their website and they will try getting it for you.
A man’s journey from a small town to a big city
Girish Reddy, founder and CEO, Used2Useful was born in Venkatagiri Kota (also known as V-Kota), a small town in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. A simple man who wasn’t dazzled by the glare of big cities. In fact, all the exposure made him a wiser man. He learnt about accelerated deforestation to meet urban needs, falling interest in literature, and the gross imbalance between our consumption of paper and planting its main source (trees) back. Wanting to address all these issues at one go, Girish hit upon the idea of recycling. “There is no awareness about recycling in the place I come from. My sister’s books are lying for the past 20 years and we don’t know what to do with it.”
The numbers tell a ghastly story
Once he hit upon the missing piece of the puzzle, Girish read extensively and easily belts out the numbers, “India produces 13 million tonnes of paper every year and the recycling is only about 26%( which is much lesser than that of developed countries). India imports 4.6 million tonnes of waste paper worth Rs. 3750 Cr from Europe and US for recycling!”
He adds, “By 2025, our consumption is estimated at 26 million. This directly translates to cutting down 300 million tress and using 100 billion gallons of water!” With reports suggesting that India might be a water scarce country by 2025 and that most of it is because of human factors, some of this can be mitigated if recycling is propagated in society and inculcated at a young age.
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The bigger scheme of things – Recycling and promoting literature
In our busy lives, even if we want to go ahead and plant trees, there are a million logistical issues – where in the city can you plant? How will you take care of the trees? What permissions do you need? It seems like a herculean task. But all is not lost. If you can’t plant, at least collect paper for recycling.
Used2Useful’s motto is ‘Read more, Recycle more’. Girish campaigns at schools and apartment buildings where he can collect used paper. He could have stopped there but since he feels deeply about promoting literacy and reading, he set up the barter system in place, especially to promote literacy in rural India. Girish often visits government schools where he talks to young children about the importance of recycling. “We are promoting literature amongst our customers,” says Reddy, “We give them new books. We calculate the value of the paper given to us by weighing it.” The used paper which is collected is sent to the nearest recycling plant. And the numbers are with him – 1 tonne of paper, we can save 17 trees, 7000 gallons of water, and conventional and unconventional sources of power.
Used2Useful’s library has a wide array of books, across several categories. These categories include novels, motivational, educational, spiritual, and business books. The books are available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, and Telugu, and are delivered free of cost to a customer’s doorstep. A customer can view the entire collection of books on the website. In case a book the customer wants is currently unavailable, they can fill out a form on used2useful.in and request for the particular book. Used2Useful’s end goal is to increase the percentage of paper recycling, to plant more trees, and to provide employment through its franchises in the future.Expanding the reach and the library
While his library is functional, and anyone can barter paper for books, he requires funds to take forward the initiative. Girish is raising funds by setting up a campaign on Milaap (a crowd-funding platform). With the funds, he plans to purchase more books (academic and literature), a vehicle for moving across the city to spread the campaign and bikes for free home delivery of the books.
Equipped with a degree from the Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICWA), and having worked as an accounts assistant, he finally found his calling with Used2Useful. While speaking to Girish, we find that there is a sense of accomplishment and contentment.
I have done a lot of jobs and businesses before this but no business has given me the satisfaction I have now. Even if we’re able to increase the percentage of recycling by 1%, we’ll consider ourselves a success.