[Startup Bharat] Making Bharat swachh and pretty: Jaipur-based Ecowrap is upcycling waste, generating employment
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014, his aim was simple – to rope in every citizen to make the country clean and garbage free. His idea resonated with many, and several individuals and organisations came up with ideas and initiatives to eliminate waste.
Angraj Swami, Utsav Goyal, Gourav Sanghai and Nitinn Sagarr are among them.
Together they founded Ecowrap (Eco, Waste and Resources Action Programme) Environmental Solutions, with the aim of total waste utilisation. The Jaipur-based startup builds awareness about waste segregation, and upcycles and recycles waste to make useful products. What’s more, it also provides employment to students of design and local artisans.
Too good to be true? We say too good, and true.
From left: Utsav Goyal, Nitinn Sagarr, Angraj Swami, Gourav Sanghai
Started in May 2017 as a programme to create public awareness about waste management, Ecowrap is now a startup targeting high-frequency waste generation segments. It closely works with 40 OYO properties in Jaipur, as well as with Barbeque Nation, Kebab & Curries and Bikanerwala.
"We have been working with Ecowrap for over four months. They have advised us on waste segregation, and how to improve recycling and rebate opportunities,” says Anand Upadhay, Manager at Bikanerwala.
Reduce, recycle, reuse
Ecowrap started by distributing free dustbins to the public to create a habit of not only using them to dispose garbage, but also to bring about awareness on segregation. To incentivise the public, they launched a waste monetisation scheme, paying for inorganic waste.
Collecting glass, paper, plastic, organic and metal waste, Co-founder Angraj says,
"We pay people for the same, except for organic waste, for which we charge them."
So, the bootstrapped startup will give you Rs 4 for a kg of glass waste, Rs 10 for plastic and Rs 11 for paper. For disposing organic waste, the startup charges Rs 3 per kg. It also takes metal waste which includes aluminum foil (Rs 40 per kg) and soft drink and beer cans (Rs 60 per kg). The team also collects tyres from various automobile repair shops in the city.
Segregated waste ready to be sent for recycling
Ecowrap has its own logistics fleet consisting of four small trucks, which are used for collecting the waste. The waste is then delivered to upcycling plants and recyclers.
While it has tie-ups with local companies that take in paper, metal and plastic waste to recycle, tyres and glass are sent to Ecowrap's own plant in Bhankrota.
"We charge Rs 6 per kg for tyre. Tyres are mostly upcycled into sofa and chair seats," says Angraj says. Glass bottles often go on to become decorative lamps.
For this, Ecowrap hires local artists and student interns from the Indian Institute of Craft & Designing to design furniture and lamps. "Sometimes, if a client wishes, we give them the recycled products instead of paying them in cash for the waste," he says.
And that its products find takers is evident from the fact that Ecowrap’s clients include multinational professional services firm Ernst & Young.
"EY recently bought four of our upcycled sofas," says Angraj. The startup also sold swings made from recycled tyres to a few governmental schools in the city.
Furniture made from recycled tyres
Angraj, 27, has a degree in physics from Delhi University and had his own paper manufacturing plant in Delhi. "Every day, while returning from work, I would pass by a dumpsite in Delhi's Mukarba Chowk. It made me wonder what I could do to change this," he says.
He returned to his hometown, where he met Princeton University graduate Nitin, 30. Along with Gourav, 25, who had decided to drop out of college, they started Ecowrap. Utsav, a graduate of Manipal University, initially interned with Ecowrap. "Once we were sure of his potential, we asked him to join as one of the co-founders," says Angraj.
The team currently has 12 members, including drivers, collectors and workers at the recycling plant.
"We choose to be based out of Jaipur since piloting in metros is very difficult and expensive. Jaipur's population density is lesser and controlling the waste here is easier than in metros," says Angraj.
According to government statistics, India generates 62 million tonnes of waste each year, and this number is growing at around four percent annually. While startups such as Saahas Zero Waste, Namo e-waste and Hasiru Dala work in the waste management sector, what sets Ecowrap apart is that it is the only company working on a circular economy model, the founders claim.
On average, Ecowrap receives 150 kg of waste from each OYO property each day. "From Barbeque Nation we receive up to 60 kg of waste (which is mostly metal) every three days," Angraj added.
The startup generates revenue by reselling metal to automobile and other companies, waste trading – or selling waste to recyclers – and by selling upcycled products. Ecowrap moved out of its pilot phase to a commercial scale in February this year.
According to Angraj, in the last eleven months, the company generated a revenue of Rs 45 lakh. The founders have invested a total of Rs 11 lakh in the startup so far.
Ecowrap also recently received approval from the Government of Rajasthan for a loan of Rs 10 lakh.
The startup is now working on using technology for operational organisation.Angraj says it has also received requests to participate in Smart city projects and is in advanced talks with the Surat Municipal Corporation for Surat Smart City. It is also in talks with including the civic bodies at Chandigarh, Guwahati and Bhubaneswar.
“We are on a mission to make Jaipur a zero-waste city in the next ten years," Angraj says.
Power to you, we say!