Pranjal Sharma

Pranjal Sharma has been analysing, commenting and writing on economic and development policy in India for 25 years. He has worked in print, TV and digital media in leadership positions and guided teams to interpret economic change and India’s engagement with the world

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Proper Infra, Regulatory Support Can Engage More Players In Recycling Initiatives: Recykal Co-Founder

In a conversation with BW Businessworld in Davos, Anirudha Jalan, Co-founder, Recykal said that high public awareness, infrastructure improvement, collaboration and partnerships, incentivising participation and regulatory support are important to engage more players

The recycling industry is offering new opportunities for entrepreneurs. From paper and plastic to electronic waste, the entire business is becoming more formalised. The India waste management market size is estimated at USD 32.81 billion in 2024 and is expected to reach USD 36.68 billion by 2029, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.25 per cent. 

In a conversation with BW Businessworld in Davos, Anirudha Jalan, Co-founder, Recykal said that high public awareness, infrastructure improvement, collaboration and partnerships, incentivising participation and regulatory support are important to engage more players in recycling initiatives, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future. Edited excerpts:

What is the main reason for starting Recykal? What's the business model? 

India’s waste management industry is highly informal. This industry has a chain of multiple stakeholders, each knowing only the information above and below their position. There is indeed an immense growth potential in this industry. The idea for Recykal took shape in 2016 when we identified the opportunity in this domain and combined our expertise in technology, business strategy, and environmental sustainability. We envisioned a digital ecosystem that would revolutionise waste management, making it more sustainable, transparent, and efficient. 

The formalisation of this industry was a significant challenge as we needed to ensure compliance with regulations. Kabadiwalas (ragpickers), for instance, were initially sceptical about paying GST and fulfilling other compliances. However, once they learned that additional categories were added to their portfolios, they began using our platform regularly and earning extra money. Every stakeholder, including government agencies, recyclers, kabadiwalas and brands, benefits from using our platform. 

Recykal provides waste management solutions to government agencies, recyclers, and brands. Recykal offers a streamlined platform for waste aggregators, elevating operational efficiency and fostering a more significant impact. Recykal empowers waste aggregators to contribute to a more sustainable waste management ecosystem by facilitating the efficient movement of waste materials. 

What is the progress achieved in the efforts to formalise the recycling economy? 

The progress achieved in the efforts to formalise the recycling economy is significant. Recykal has scaled its operations from two states in 2016 to 30+ states and UTs in India, currently. Since inception, we have channelled more than 700,000 MT of waste and won national and international accolades, while digitally empowering over 4,000 Kabadiwalas. 

Through our 'Samudra Manthan' project, we have successfully reclaimed over 70 thousand metric tonne of ocean-bound plastic waste. In eco-sensitive areas such as the Himalayas, we have effectively managed and channelled more than 11 lakh plastic bottles, preventing them from entering the Himalayan water bodies. 

Recykal has also enabled high collection rates, lowered costs of collection, and increased transparency and traceability of waste through its innovative solutions such as Smart Center, Deposit Refund System and EPR Loop. 

What's needed to deepen the efforts and bring more players? 

To deepen the efforts and bring more players into recycling initiatives, several key actions are essential: 

Increase Public Awareness: Educating the public about the importance of recycling and sustainability is crucial. This can be achieved through widespread campaigns, educational programs in schools and communities, and partnerships with media outlets. 

Infrastructure Improvement: Investments in infrastructure for recycling, such as the installation of more public recycling bins, making recycling facilities easily accessible, and enhancing collection and recycling processes. 

Collaboration And Partnerships: Forming strong partnerships with businesses, governments, NGOs, and community organisations to create a network of support that can expand and enhance recycling efforts. 

Incentivising Participation: Establishing incentive programs for individuals and businesses to participate in recycling initiatives, such as offering rewards for recycling or providing tax incentives for companies that invest in sustainable practices. 

Regulatory Support: Encouraging regulatory support and policies that favour recycling and sustainability, including incentives for recycling businesses and industries, and the implementation of waste management regulations. 

By focusing on these areas, we can deepen our efforts and engage more players in recycling initiatives, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future.   

 How can technology be used to improve the ecosystem? 

 Technologies mitigate quality loss in waste treatment and recycling, addressing the lack of visibility in feedstock availability and establishing consistent quality material availability at scale. Digital marketplace platforms connect buyers and sellers of recyclables, providing real-time information on the availability, types and quantities of waste/recyclables, along with the location of sellers and buyers. 

Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions assist businesses in managing waste generation and disposal while ensuring compliance. They also allow Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to monitor household waste. AI and data analytics observe and analyse human behavioural patterns related to waste disposal, recycling, and consumption, tracking waste generation, segregation, and disposal practices in real time. 

Technology facilitates tailored behavioural training programs through digital platforms and virtual simulations for waste management education and motivation. VR and AR technologies offer immersive experiences for waste management training, allowing simulation of waste sorting, recycling processes, and environmental impacts for enhanced learning outcomes. 

Mobile apps and social media platforms integrated with behavioural assessment tools provide personalised feedback and incentives, encouraging sustainable waste management behaviours and fostering community engagement. Technology can design products and processes that minimise waste, digitise and automate waste management operations, and provide data and insights for better resource efficiency and circularity.   

What kind of investors and investments are you looking at to scale up the work of Recykal?  

Recykal has demonstrated a track record of attracting reputable and influential investors, such as Morgan Stanley and Circulate Capital, along with individual investors like Vellayan Subbiah and Arun Venkatachalam. These investments have played a pivotal role in fueling the company's growth and expansion. To further scale up the work of Recykal, the company may seek strategic investors who share its vision of sustainable, technology-driven waste management solutions. 

Investors with a focus on environmental sustainability, circular economy initiatives, and a strong commitment to leveraging technology for positive social and environmental impact would be ideal to support Recykal's mission and growth trajectory. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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