Kanpur Startup Helps Villages Segregate & Recycle 900 KG Waste With Unique ‘Incentives’

Women giving waste at a Greengine waste hub

Nitin Srivastava quit his job to launch Greengine Environmental Technologies, a startup that has a patented incentive-based waste management solution to encourage segregation

In 2015, Nitin Srivastava was working in waste water management in a corporate. Having done a Master’s in environmental engineering, he was keen on developing solutions to pressing problems using technology. He also wanted to branch out on his own, and before doing so, he started initial research. 

To find out the issues faced by people on ground, he visited villages near his hometown of Kanpur, alongside other areas in Uttar Pradesh. 

As he travelled across these villages, he realised that solid waste management was a big problem.

“I visited villages, took some surveys and interacted with people. I found that there was no waste segregation happening. The second issue was that there were no people to pick up the waste. Even in areas with safai karmacharis (sanitation workers), they were dumping the waste all together in landfills,” Nitin Srivastava tells The Better India.  

After these surveys, Nitin zeroed in on two areas that he found lacking — solid waste management and industrial carbon capture. 

“Even in urban areas, while solid waste management solutions exist, most are just on paper. I started researching more on viable solutions and found that if segregation is done at source, the chain can be run efficiently. It’s very difficult otherwise to segregate waste when it is given in a mixed manner,” adds the 36-year-old. 

Nitin founded and registered his company called Greengine Environmental Technologies Private Limited in 2015. But it was only two years later, when he was armed with data and an idea, that he quit his job and started developing an incentive-based digital waste management ecosystem, which provides end-to-end solutions. Right from incentivising people to segregate waste at their homes to the final step of recycling the waste, Greengine’s G-Recyclers, a patented model, does it all. 

How it works 

Nitin Srivastava, Founder, Greengine Environmental Technologies Pvt Ltd
Nitin Srivastava, Founder, Greengine Environmental Technologies

G-Recyclers tested their model in Ishwariganj in 2018. They were subsequently incubated at IIT-Kanpur. What they do is ensure waste segregation at source, subsequent collection, and proper disposal of the waste. All this is done through their digital ecosystem. 

“A decentralised way of managing waste, I found, could be an effective solution. By engaging the public, using technology, and minimising use of infrastructure, we can create a sustainable product. We are basically enablers who bring the locals together with the recyclers and government. We have created a platform to do this in a digital manner,” explains the entrepreneur. 

What’s novel about G-Recyclers is the incentive they provide people for segregating their waste. 

Once the waste is given in a segregated manner, people receive a product like tea, soap, biscuit, sanitary pad, notebook, pen, spices, and detergent, or a discount at a local store. This way, local businesses also flourish, according to Nitin. 

“We have waste hubs in each gram panchayat. Here, locals can go and give their waste. There is a data person and sanitation worker at each hub. The mobile number and data of how much waste each person has disposed will be entered here. Credits are given depending on the quantity of waste. Once a person has 50 credits, he or she will be given a product worth Rs 10 or a discount voucher,” explains Nitin.

For every six gram panchayats, there is one common material recovery facility set up. One motor trolley will transfer the waste from each gram panchayat to this facility. From here, the segregated waste is sent to local recyclers in different categories. 

The waste is to be demarcated in eight categories, including organic, electronic, medical, paper, glass, rubber, metal, and plastic (disposable and multi-layered).  They have recycled 900 kg of waste so far. 

“Everything is powered by technology and the waste can be tracked from collection to final disposal. We provide a digital footprint of each gram of waste. We are also helping local retailers by promoting their products,” adds Nitin. 

Greengine received a patent from the government for their incentive-based waste management system.

A G-Recyclers waste hub in Uttar Pradesh
A G-Recyclers waste hub in Uttar Pradesh

The company was incubated at Startup Incubation and Innovation Centre, IIT Kanpur in September 2018. They replicated the model in 20 villages near Kanpur in October 2019. 

However, due to COVID, the operations were hampered.

“COVID caused a big challenge to us. Just as we were looking to expand, we had to restart. Currently, we have executed MoUs with six gram panchayats near Lucknow for implementing our model. We have also spoken to the Uttar Pradesh government and have done initial discussions to launch in 185 villages. We hope to reach 20,000 villages in the next three years,” says Nitin.

Another challenge faced was due to the bureaucracy, he adds. “Since we work on a bottom top approach, it is time consuming. We work on educating and empowering people in every village. This becomes a little tough to replicate. Another issue is the frequent transfer of officers. It causes a lot of delays in implementation,” says Nitin. 

‘Segregation at households is key’

Women given sanitary pads as incentive for waste segregation
Women given sanitary pads as an incentive for waste segregation

But the light at the end of the tunnel is the behavioural change of villagers, especially women and children. 

“Since people have more time in villages, and value incentives matter to them, they have really started segregating waste. Even one single plastic bag is meticulously segregated by them. Major contributors to the success of our model are women and children. Their efforts are truly appreciable,” says Nitin.

“Compared to a few months ago, our village has become much more clean. We are also contributing to this and ensuring that we give each waste item in a separate fashion,” says Pooja, a resident of Anora Kala village where G-Recyclers is operational. 

The other big solution that Nitin is working on now is industrial carbon capture. Having worked on this during his MTech in environmental engineering from IIT Kanpur, the entrepreneur is now developing a technology for the same. Greengine has partnered with Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) for this project. 

“We are working on capturing industrial carbon dioxide through microalgae. This will help reduce carbon emissions. We will then convert it into products like biopolymers and biogas. The IOC is helping us and has funded this project. We will be deploying this by next year,” says Nitin. 

Edited by Divya Sethu

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