In 2014, Bengaluru-based Naveen Mariyan started a project, ReUse, intending to collect and recycle the trash from corporations, apartments and individuals.
“About a year ago, I visited an apartment complex and saw a kabadiwala collecting and weighing newspapers, metal and other kinds of scrap. So, I thought why not do it professionally in an organised manner?” he says.
These beautiful upcycled products are not just unique, but compared to mass-produced and machine-made products, also reduce your carbon footprint.
He was also looking to start an online business that could have some social impact and he saw a big opportunity in this. However, seven months of market research and speaking to vendors made him change his mind.
“I had to put the project on hold because the research revealed that there was a lack of awareness among people about waste segregation, which in turn, made it unfeasible to get into the recycling business. Additionally, the waste collection market was highly disorganised,” says Naveen.
Naveen then went on to work at Zomato, as a part of the support team, for about two years.
So, what made him return to his original plan?
“The BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) got more stringent with rules related to waste management, and that made me realise that the model might just work.”
In October 2016, Naveen and five of his friends came together to found Khalibottle, a startup that would collect recyclable waste at source and ensure that this is sent to government authorised recycling units across the city.
What does Khalibottle do?
Would you believe it if I told you that you could get paid to segregate your waste and that it will be collected right at your doorstep?
Khalibottle has a service called the ‘Star Partner’ service for corporate houses, online manufacturing units etc. Not only do they go and collect the waste, but they also pay these clients almost about Rs 12 to 13 per kg of recyclable waste. They also collect garbage from individuals and apartments and have named them, ‘Green Squad’ customers. These customers are paid about Rs 8 per kg.
Customers can schedule a pick up from their location on the Khalibottle website or the startups’ WhatsApp number (+91 89705-89701).
Any customer who schedules a pick-up can choose to either receive the payment for selling their waste or can make a donation to their cause by refusing to take the money.
Khalibottle collects recyclable waste like plastics of different grades, cardboards, newspapers, loose sheets, old books, copper batteries and even aluminium. However, they do not collect items like thermocol, furniture, and clothes as there aren’t many recycling units for these items.
But, how did they first reach out to their prospective clients?
“Initially, we started by reaching out to local businesses like cycle shops, restaurants, apartments and community halls. Then we approached schools, colleges and brand outlets where we tried to create awareness among students, teachers and management. These existing clients helped spread our message to newer ones by word-of-mouth,” says Naveen.
Khalibottle now works with 36 apartment complex communities every month, and the waste collection takes place once in every 15 days.
Aisha Valani, 31, a school teacher lives in one such apartment complex named Alpine Pyramid in Hebbal. She explains that although the BBMP introduced rules regarding waste segregation, they would notice that either the garbage would end up being burnt or in landfills.
“This practice disturbed several residents of the community, so we came together and approached companies and organisations that believed in recycling. That is how we came across Khalibottle four months ago,” she says.
Khalibottle not only picks up the waste, but also educates the housekeeping and cleaning staff in these apartment complexes and organises awareness meetings with the residents, teaching them how to segregate their waste and what all can be upcycled. Sometimes, they even collaborate with apartment communities and come up with plays that create awareness about waste segregation and recycling.
Thanks to these efforts, several apartment complexes have been able to reduce their waste from 300 kg in a month to about 120 to 130 kg.
Aisha explains that when they first got in touch with Khalibottle, Naveen himself came down to the apartment complex to describe the services they provide and how they go about it.
“I liked the fact that they were so transparent with their processes and we knew how that waste is going to be recycled,” she says.
In 2017, Khalibottle teamed up with the BBMP for waste recycling. The startup is responsible for managing and operating two BBMP dry waste centres and handles almost 36 vehicles that transport this waste from different wards. Each of these vehicles holds about 400 kg of trash.
Naveen explains that once the Khalibottle team gets their hands on the segregated waste, items like cardboard, paper, plastic, glass etc. are separated before being sent to the recycling units.
Since, there are different grades of plastics, there is a process in place for their segregation as well. For example, he says that flimsy plastic bags (single use plastics) are kept separately from PET bottles before these items are sent to the recycling units. Items like plastic bottles are further segregated based on colour, with the transparent plastic fetching a reasonable price of Rs. 23 to 24 per kg.
In addition to attempting to make the city cleaner, Naveen has also employed people like school dropouts, especially from the rural areas.
About 1.5 years ago, Vinay Kumar M, 19, was in Class 12, when he had to drop out of school due to financial troubles at home. His father, a farmer, had passed away, and it was becoming tough for his family to sustain themselves.
Today, Vinay is a member of the waste collection team at Khalibottle. He has been working with them for over a year now, and regularly sends money to his family in Bellary.
Khalibottle is also in talks with other startups in the city to integrate its platform on their apps and gain more visibility. They also plan on working closely and build a network with kabadiwalas in the city to ensure that more recyclable waste is collected.
Currently, with a team of 14 people, Khalibottle has about over 51,2340 registered customers, where 79% are regular customers. On average, they recycle over 13 tonnes of waste in a month and 156 tonnes in a year.
While Naveen still believes that creating awareness among the masses regarding waste segregation is a challenge, he plans on expanding Khalibottle’s operations in Mangaluru and Chennai by the beginning of next year. Mangaluru was chosen because Naveen says that they were getting a lot of calls from the city. “Meanwhile, we saw a lot of potential in Chennai since dry waste in the city is disposed of in a very poor manner. Every 200m, we saw a garbage piles and in the long run, this is going to end up in landfills,” he says.
With consumerist behaviour on the rise, recycling is going to become an absolute necessity, making it an excellent business opportunity for those in the recycling business. Naveen agrees, and in fact, hopes to eventually begin upcycling waste as well.
“With the right knowledge and technology, I believe that the issue of waste management can be solved. We are happy to join hands with upcoming players in this sector to protect the environment in all possible ways,” he says.
You May Also Read: What a Middle-Class Mom Can Teach You About Recycling That No One Else Can
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)