An electronics engineer turned sustainability enthusiast, Sahithi Bhupathiraju would notice plastic lying scattered even in the most dense forests on her way to college everyday, which was 70-80 kilometres from Hyderabad. With a Masters in Sustainability from University of Southern California and work experience in renewable energy and green building certifications in the US, she returned to India in 2018 to work with Waste Ventures, a for-profit social enterprise and is now leading by changing paradigms in solid waste management.
Waste management has emerged as one of the biggest development challenges in urban India. Research reveals that unsafe disposal of waste disturbs the environmental balance and causes tremendous harm to both animals and people. Moreover, it is estimated that 90 percent of waste in India is dumped in public spaces instead of being sent to properly engineered landfill sites.
In a chat with MAKERS India, Bhupathiraju reveals that despite the regulatory framework, there has hardly been any change in situation. Instead, the problem witnessed a rise during the lockdown.
“Littering is a little less today, but there is no difference in dumping. Whether it ends up in the landfill or public places, it is still the same. We have also observed a tremendous increase in the generation of waste due to Amazon, Swiggy and other e-commerce sites, as online shopping has dramatically increased during the lockdown. There are consistent efforts being made in the country to collect the waste, recycle, compost but the problem still persists. There is a lot of scope for all of us to do more,” she explains.
From India's solid waste sector to models that are simultaneously environmentally and financially sustainable, Bhupathiraju and her team at Waste Ventures India are making a difference, one step at a time. It offers professional waste collection and processing services to households, corporate clients and waste pickers. It environmentally processes both wet and dry waste, creating revenue from materials that traditional solid waste systems ignore.
“According to solid waste management rules, every individual is required to segregate dry, wet and rejected waste at home, and all the governing bodies are required to provide an infrastructure, so that they are all collected in a proper manner. Though we have regulations, implementation is very poor. In the last two years, I have definitely seen momentum, especially in and around Hyderabad. Local urban bodies are really showing interest in getting things done, engaging with organisations like us, and waste pickers on ground to get things rolling. I do acknowledge it is a hard task to implement, because the citizens’ support is important as well,” adds Bhupathiraju.
Waste Ventures India has averted over 3,000 tons of waste since late 2013 from Indian dumpsites. It offers Hyderabad's first digital doorstep recyclable pickup service.
Watch the video to know more.
(Interviewed by Geetika Sachdev and produced by Poorvi Gupta)