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Recycling in India: A revenue generating business model

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BY Radha G
Resources are limited but wants are unlimited. Some societies make good use of the limited resources. They turn best out of waste through 'Recycling' and in the process earn their livelihood, while conserving natural resources.

India is one such country where Recycling is not only a huge business but a way of life.

Every step of the way not only is garbage and trash recycled, but important things like novels and study books also have an unique 'recycling' channel. The seller and the buyer, both make money thus making it a true 'revenue-generating' idea. Though largely operated through unorganized sector, there are efforts being made to organize this sector which can be a boon to the Society and the Environment.

Being born and brought up in India , I have had a first hand experience into this fascinating world of generating revenue out of trash.

Following are the different Recycling channels operating in India :

Raddiwala
Nobody reads yesterday's newspaper. In India every household after reading, stores the daily newspaper, thus accumulating 'raddi'. At the end of the month you have almost 5 kilos,equal to approximately 10.40 pounds of 'raddi'. This is then sold to a 'Raddiwala' - the person who buys the 'raddi'. Many of them offer free pick-up service. The 'raddiwala' pays Rs.5 per kilo which is equal to 4 cents per pound. They usually use a bicycle to commute. The 'Raddiwala' in turn sells it to a wholesaler who then sells it to paper companies, who produce recycled paper. Some cities in India have entrepreneurs who have built revenue generating businesses and some even have websites to schedule pick-ups like raddidepot.com. There have been instances where NGO's have raised money by selling 'raddi' to fund their operations, one of them being Maitri. This is one of the most Eco-friendly, revenue -generating recycling channels.

Kabadiwala
If you have an old non-working electronic gadget or broken wood furniture or a cracked glass frame, in India this too can fetch you money. This kind of trash is called 'kabad'.All you need to do is go to the 'Kabadiwala'. This person will buy all these items from anywhere between Rs.10 - Rs.100, equal to 8 cents - 2 dollars depending on his valuation of the trashed item. He then sells it to big factories/companies who specialize in recycling this kind of waste. This not only clears your home for other things but keeps trash out of landfills. The 'Kabadiwala' is also encouraging the Indian youth to become entrepreneurs, using it as a business idea and a revenue generating model to set-up small businesses. This is also being recognized by the Indian Government as an innovative project idea.

Bhandiwali
This is an unique concept. The used or old clothes can be sold to a 'Bhandiwali'. 'Bhandi' means utensils.This lady does the rounds of your locality once a week. All you need to do is shout out to her and she comes to your doorstep, scrutinizes all the clothes, the one she thinks can be recycled will be traded for steel utensils. She will not pay you money, instead give you steel cups, pots, pans or ladles depending on how good/bad your clothes are. She then sells them to vendors who buy it either to sell them on the roadside or recycle to make new clothes, bags or just fabric.

Roadside Library
In India you have small 'libraries' on certain streets. These are small shops that buy your study books, novels and magazines at a deep discount. The collection is vast as all the people in the neighborhood sell their old books here. Sometimes you find books that are not available even in your Town library. You make money by selling your old books and the shopkeeper loans these books to others for a small fee thus creating a win-win situation for all. Besides when you borrow a book you do not have a return date, you can return it when ever you want. The only security against the book is a nominal 'returnable' deposit the vendor takes to avoid the book from being 'not brought back'.

Book Stores
In India the big book stores too participate in this recycling of sorts. They sell academic books for college/graduation levels and above on 'returnable' basis. This way you buy your curriculum books at a discount and at the end of your academic year you get 50% of your money back when you return the books in good condition. This reduces the cost of books for the student and earns a bigger profit for the book store.

Rag pickers
Anything non-usable that is not bought by either of the above mentioned channels lands into the trash bin. Here you have 'rag pickers' who visit these bins early in the morning and rummage through it for anything from plastic, glass to paper boxes, anything which can be recycled. This way even the dumped trash is also put to good use helping these rag pickers earn a livelihood. These rag pickers are a great boon in tourist places where the plastic bottles are collected and sold by them. These are recycled to make plastic jars and even clothes. They are the true environmentalists.

Recycling business in India has its own controversies with regards to safety, health, pollution, child labor and even under payment to these channels. The fact remains that Recycling has helped reduce trash, fill less of the landfills, produce bio gas and provide cleaner societies. It has also led to conservation of resources and reduction of cost. But the most important outcome of Recycling in India is, it has helped poor households earn a living, however frugal it may seem.

(Radha G worked for 8 years in the Finance Sector - Mortgages to be specific. Have a Masters Degree in Commerce and a Post Graduate Degree in Finance from India. Enjoy writing, be it poetry, management topics, finance or reviews. It gives me a sense of satisfaction.)

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