Eco-friendliness begins at home, but many of us don’t know how. These startups and social enterprises are helping people be the change they want to see.
The micro-plastics in our seas now outnumber the stars in our galaxy. If that isn’t a call to action, what is?
This year, World Environment Day had a single-point agenda: beat plastic pollution by rejecting single-use plastic. That’s the only way to tackle the burgeoning problem of plastic pollution, now plaguing the health of humans, wildlife, marine life, and the environment.
Many of us are aware of the state of the environment, and would like to switch to an organic and eco-friendly lifestyle. However, the lack of resources and availability of sustainable products often comes in the way. But multiple startups and social enterprises in India are now working to facilitate this change. They are involved not just in recycling, organic farming, and food processing, but are also helping urban dwellers upcycle waste.
We list down a few social enterprises that are helping people become more environment-friendly and responsible in their daily life. Here’s how you can walk the eco-friendly talk:
1. Recycle plastic bottles
Alarmed by Delhi’s ever-increasing plastic waste, an ISB Hyderabad alumnus decided to motivate the public to recycle their waste. This was done by showing people the benefits of recycling PET bottles and aluminium cans, and offering them cashbacks and discounts.
Launched in 2016, RVM (which stands for reverse vending machine) Recycle aims to make the recycling supply chain efficient by incentivising the public with the support of government agencies.
RVM Recycle’s Zeleno involves collection of empty PET bottles and aluminium cans using smart bins and rewarding the user for them with either cashbacks or discount vouchers, which can be subsequently redeemed at specific outlets. Each Zeleno, or RVM, has a digital screen. Users open the door of the smart bin and drop in the bottle by following the basic commands on the touchscreen. Sensors detect the aluminium and scan the bottles. The details of the bottles and cans are then tallied with the database, and they pass through the conveyor belt.
Around 2,000 bottles and aluminium cans can be recycled in one smart bin. The company has tied up with several recyclers, including VLS Ecotech, and the plastic bottles are recycled to make yarn. The cans are also recycled.
The 30 smart bins installed across different locations reportedly collect over 4,500 bottles every day. The firm has successfully recycled nearly 32,000 kg of waste so far.
2. Switch to upcycled products
Urban India today produces nearly 48 million tonnes of municipal solid waste annually. Given this lifestyle and our limited resources, Shailaja Rangarajan wanted to create a consumption pattern where waste could be recycled and used for a purpose. Shailaja created Rimagined, a platform to make this possible.
Shailaja started Rimagined in April 2016, along with a silent partner and with initial seed funding. Rimagined was launched as a reseller of upcycled products that brought together manufacturers and customers.
Upcycling was the concept that seemed closest to what Shailaja wanted to do. Hence Reimagined primarily uses materials that are locally available, since transporting waste defeats the whole purpose of putting waste to use. These locally available materials are then woven into products.
After designs are conceptualised for the waste materials available, the team identifies groups of women who can make these products. The process involves training and handholding them through learning and sample creation. After they get proficient, the team gets into production mode.
The process of upcycling involves sourcing waste, sifting and cleaning the material to become usable as raw material, product design, product creation, quality check, and, finally, marketing.
Rimagined began as an online marketplace and now has its own retail outlet in Bengaluru to sell the Rimagined label as well as creations of other product designers.
3. Recycle e-waste
There are over 650 million mobile phones in circulation in India, including 300 million smartphones, and over 25 percent of them end up as e-waste annually.
India is the fourth largest electronic waste producer in the world. The devices that produce e-waste in the country include appliances such as refrigerators, laptops, lamps, printers, phones, calculators, among other things.
Recognising the immediate dangers of unchecked e-wastem which ends up in landfills, Pranshu Singhal founded Karo Sambhav to enable a sustainable and systemic transformation of India’s e-waste sector.
Karo Sambhav, founded in May 2017, has partnered with industry associations, state IT departments, municipal corporations, NGOs, informal sector waste pickers, collectors, and aggregators to build a country wide cohesive e-waste movement. Their aim was to enable people and institutions to responsibly recycle electronic waste while ensuring sustainable livelihoods for waste pickers and aggregators.
With an end-to-end value chain for management of e-waste and by engaging citizens and MNCs including Apple, Lenovo, Dell and HP, Karo Sambhav has successfully kept 2,91,310 kg of e-waste away from landfills.
The organisation has also launched a mobile application, which provides a user a 360-degree solution for their e-waste. Individuals can request the Karo Sambhav team to collect their e-waste, irrespective of the quantity or weight, from a pick-up location and also track its recycling process. The app also connects waste pickers, repair shops, and waste aggregators under one platform.
Gurugram-based Karo Sambhav is now present in 28 states, three union territories, and 68 cities. Its community awareness programmes have reached 1,000-plus schools.
4. Use eco-friendly home products
In an age where environmental concerns are growing every day, it’s wise to switch to natural products. And to make this easier and possible, four friends launched Mitti Se to provide a range of all-natural daily use products.
Tuba, Faiz, Rafi, and Faakhra, looked for an alternative everywhere, but their search ended in nature. Though each of them came from different fields, including biotechnology, education, Ayurveda, and software, the founders of Mitti Se were keen to live responsible and eco-friendly lifestyles.
Mitti Se offers safe and effective alternatives to products that contain harmful chemicals. It has products for body care and hair care along with detergents and oral care products. Everything is priced under Rs 1,000.
All Mitti Se products are manufactured in Lucknow; Faiz and Tuba, along with a team, are involved in the production. The ingredients are procured from farmers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Kashmir. These products are then processed and packed at their manufacturing unit in Lucknow.
The products are handmade, the ingredients are minimally processed, and efficacy is kept high. They are in powder form or oil-based which helps in avoiding the use of artificial preservatives. They are made in small batches to ensure freshness.
The team is now working on shifting to completely eco-friendly packaging. Apart from planning to export products to other countries, Mitti Se is planning to expand to stores, malls, and portals, and reach out to customers who may not visit an exclusively organic store.
5. Go for eco-friendly disposables
Started with the initiative to reduce plastic use and make our surroundings cleaner and greener, Mumbai-based Pappco Greenware produces eco-friendly food packaging products.
Pappco Greenware offers a range of more than 150 products spread across seven different product lines. Its “service ware” range includes plates, glasses, and bowls made from natural fibres such as sugarcane, wheat straw, and bamboo.
Sugarcane and bamboo are plants which mature in just about two years, reducing the massive dependence on trees and also doing away with the need to use oil incorporated in plastic products.
The raw materials used make the products very easy to decompose in backyard garden composting or industrial compost sites. These plant fibre products can handle hot foods and beverages as they don’t bend or break. Pappco products are also microwavable till 100° C.
Pappco also produces paper straws made from sustainably sourced European paper that is FDA-approved. It also produces bioplastics, which are plastics made from plants, algae, or microorganisms.
Pappco currently has more than 200 F&B clients they are working with to reducing the use of plastic. The company is targeting making 500 outlets in India plastic straw-free; it has 80 outlets on board as of date.
The ways and means to go eco-friendly are around us. Being environment-conscious won’t be tough if the intention is there. Let’s join hands to save our planet!