[Tech30] One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: Citizengage aims to turn Bengaluru’s garbage problem around

The plastic waste generated in Bengaluru in a year can produce enough tar to lay a road around the Earth’s equator and still have some left over for another national highway.

Surprised? Well that’s the bitter reality of Urban India.

The urban households of India all together generate over 62 million tonnes of garbage in a year, out of which a whopping 85 percent is recyclable. Silicon city Bengaluru has lost the tag of ‘The Garden City’, which it proudly flaunted up till about 10 years ago. While one can definitely turn this conversation into a blame game, one tech startup has chosen to make an effort to turn this story around.

Team YourStory proudly announces Citizengage as a part of our Tech 30. And here’s why they won the tag.

A Bengaluru-based waste-to-resource startup, Citizengage is a technology startup operating an end-to-end waste management platform. Started in 2015, the startup was co-founded by Pronita Saxena and Ashish Malayil, both in their early thirties. Citizengage intends to build a platform that lets every household segregate their waste in real-time.

Cycling their way from households to recycling bins

The startup intends to evolve into a hub that collects garbage from doorsteps and transports it to their respective recycling areas. In the course of these operations, each household gets marked as a red, grey or green spot. The household that understands the nuances of garbage segregation; that realises the difference between dry, wet and non-recyclable garbage, earns itself a green spot. The red tag, meanwhile, goes out to a household that does otherwise. The grey tag is earned by the one that is in the process of becoming a resourceful green household. In such instances, the startup sends in a trainer to bridge the gap between the grey and green tags and bring about the execution of precise garbage segregation. Pronita says,

There is a social pressure on each household once they are given a marking (red/green/grey). In a society or gated community, when a resident sees himself being marked lower than others, he is already in the competition of being a resourceful garbage segregator, and that’s what we are running for.

Citizengage preserves the value of waste at source and connects communities, businesses, waste collectors, energy producers and recyclers through transparent transactions. It intends to help reduce landfill use, power clean energy, and build recycling economies.

The ride

With over 1,050 households and 50 businesses as clients, the startup manages to recycle close to 100 tonnes of waste in a month, operating solely in Bengaluru so far. The platform uses technology to integrate and manage the waste in real-time. It also generates data about the quantity and quality of waste produced at each collection point.

The platform combines the latest in mobility, IoT, algorithms and analytics to measure, track, monitor and control the entire cycle of waste to resource conversion. The platform acts as a single point of contact with many roles: imparting waste management training to staff and residents of businesses and residential complexes, tracking transportation fleets to ensure timely collection, receiving feedback and guidance on segregation, receiving invoices and making payments.

Over the past three months, the network has successfully channeled over 700 tonnes of waste to clean energy, compost and recycled products instead of landfills, thereby eradicating over 52 tonnes of CO2 emissions. The startup has recently raised a fresh round of funding and is looking at doubling their reach in response to growing demand.

We have just closed a fresh round of funding after bootstrapping the idea for over two years. We are glad we have scaled so far and we are very excited to reach out to every household, starting from Bengaluru. We would like to invest the money in increasing our workforce, says Pronita.

Reaching out to their audience

The startup targets large residential communities and commercial establishments, and charges a monthly subscription fee to manage their internal and external waste-to-resource systems. The startup has a lean team of 18, each of them involved in converting trash into a resource.

All the waste generated is then transferred to their respective destinations post the segregation. The majority of the waste collected is wet waste, which is sent to biogas plants. In Bengaluru alone, there are over a dozen bio-gas plants. On the other hand, the dry waste is sent to vendors (dry waste collection centres) who recycle them accordingly. Pronita says,

Bengaluru has a better legislative environment than any city across the world. The only thing the city lacks is the supply chain problem and that’s the dent we intend to fill.

On being a part of the main event of TechSparks 2016, Pronita says,

We are very proud to be a part of YourStory’s Tech30. It is undoubtedly a prestigious event and we look forward to the chance to present our concept in front of some of the biggest names in the ecosystem.

YourStory’s Take

Waste to energy is a well-established model in developed countries for the handling of waste, but we haven’t even scratched the surface in India. A tech-focused founding team with good intentions to back up the idea, Citizengage is an initiative we’re rooting for, and the startup undoubtedly has laurels awaiting it ahead.



Updates from around the world