Siva Sankar, the founder of Noval India, believes that India’s waste management sector is primarily taken care of by two factions — earth-friendly NGOs that rely on volunteers to keep the surroundings clean and mega projects by the government or private companies that treat the garbage.
With both factions, he sees a problem of long-term sustainability.
While there is always doubt on how long volunteers will keep the momentum going, the waste treatment plants by the government often do not run on full capacity or cannot be fitted everywhere due to space crunch.
In 2014, when the Central government had launched its flagship Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, many societies were asked to set up their composting units to treat wet waste at source to reduce the burden on landfills. Several municipal corporations had to introduce fines for societies (with more than 100 apartments) who refused to install the machine citing cost, maintenance and space issues.
Having experienced this first-hand, Siva, an alumnus of IIM Kozhikode, came up with a unique subscription model last October.
As per this model, any society from Pune, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Kerala can subscribe to the Mumbai-based startup’s waste management services at a nominal cost of Rs 180 (per household) per month.
In return, you get a share of the revenue generated by selling compost and dry waste.
Noval was founded in 2014 to provide waste management solutions to societies, corporates, and educational institutions. Along with selling their machines, they also run the subscription model to suit people’s needs in a more feasible way.
“Once you subscribe with us, we own your waste. Right from the collection, segregation, recycling, and composting, our staff takes care of everything. We set up a couple of machines in your premises so that no waste goes outside the building,” Siva tells The Better India.
Under its model called ‘Green Lease’, the startup, which is registered under the Kerala Startup Mission, has signed the contract with 72 societies in different cities, 28 of which are presently using the services.
“Due to the lockdown, we had to halt our services. We service around 8,000 families and treat up to 12 tonnes of household waste daily,” he adds.
How This Model Works
The only criterion is to have 100 families living in your building. Noval’s largest customer is an apartment complex with 5,000 flats.
The machines, which are manufactured by Noval, don’t need much space. They can be fitted on the terrace as well, “For 150 households, we need an area of only 150 sq ft.”
The startup gives a seven-day free demonstration to the society, based on which the residential committee can sign the contract for a minimum of three years. However, the society has the option to discontinue at no cancellation charges with one month’s notice.
The startup then procures a NOC (no objection certificate) from the local municipal authority to set up the machines, including aerated composter, plastic shredder, incinerator and conveyor belt.
“The shredder shreds plastic waste, leaves and coconut waste. The composting machine converts wet waste into compost, and the incinerator treats sanitary waste. Meanwhile, the conveyor belt further segregates the dry waste into plastic, metal, and paper. We sell dry waste to local recyclers and compost to farmers. Half of the revenue is shared with the society members,” says Siva.
Though the machines run on power, they use minimal units to process the waste, “It takes ten units (Rs 70) to process 500 kilos of waste,” he adds.
Ronnie, a member of Purva Parkridge in Bengaluru, says, “We have 149 villas, and ever since we took the subscription in February this year, all our 100 kilos of waste is completely managed by Noval. This model certainly takes away the need for owning a compost machine and transfers the process to an open model with the experts.”
Besides helping societies go zero-waste, this one-of-its-kind model also generates jobs for informal waste pickers. The staff is hired on payroll and earn up to Rs 15,000 every month. This model ensures them a stable income and also provides a hygienic environment and dignity of labour.
“We are provided with a full-body PPE suit and gloves, and we come in contact with the waste for only a few minutes. The automatic machines take care of everything once we deposit the waste. It is a very safe and hygienic process that takes not more than two hours per society,” 45-year-old Asha Mohite, one of the operators from Mumbai, tells The Better India.
India generates nearly 62 million tonnes of waste every year, of which less than 50 per cent is recycled. With the mounting garbage crisis, solutions like the one provided by Siva and his team are not only feasible but also affordable.
Request for a free trial here.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)