“Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good action; try to use ordinary situations.”
– Jean Paul Richter, German novelist and humorist
ITC, India’s FMCG corporate giant, has conceptualized a recycling scheme called Wealth Out of Waste (WoW) that helps spread awareness about segregating, recycling and disposing waste responsibly. It is an internationally recognized initiative taken up by Bureau of International of Recycling, which is a world wide international trade federation representing the world’s recycling Industry, promoting recycling across the globe. ITC works in close cooperation with Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) in India for widespread execution.
The intention of the program is to reach out to educational institutions, homes and other community centers. The idea of waste segregation and recycling is spread throughout. After a certain period of time, the WoW team visits the institute again to collect waste and gives them money in return of the recyclable items collected. This has now become their unique Wealth Out of Waste model.
The reason why this paradigm has gained popularity in India is because our waste collection and disposal system isn’t stringent enough to handle the scrap generated. Countries like Germany follow the concept of Pfand, which is literally translated in English as “bottle deposits”. Pfand is a certain portion of the price on a bottled drink that you get back if you return the said bottle to a certified outlet. Most supermarkets do this with a pair of slightly space-age looking machines – one for each type of Pfandflasche– into which consumers feed their bottles hour after hour, day after day. The bottles are either accepted or rejected according to whether they are in the correct machine, whether they were produced and bought in Germany, and whether they are covered by the system or not. This is one of the most simplistic and perhaps the most efficient methods of collecting the waste. The underlying fact remains that the production company itself here takes the responsibility of the plastic waste generated. India, as an environment-sensitive country, should broaden the scope of its production/ manufacturing duties. It must add a clause to the roles and responsibilities of the industries that they need to take into consideration the post-sale services.
Nonetheless, India has started contributing its share in this direction. For instance, Dell launched its free consumer laptop battery recycling program across all major metros and tier-1 cities. The idea is to reduce the amount of E-waste entering landfills. To further promote this noble concept, they offer a discount of Rs 500 towards the purchase of a new Dell Li-ion laptop battery to its users who return their non-working Li-ion batteries from Dell Inspiron, XPS and Vostro laptop ranges.
Prior to this, Dell had conceptualized a special discount coupon program where consumers could return their old Dell computers to Dell for free recycling and redeem a coupon of Rs 1,000 on the purchase of their next Dell computer.
As a matter of fact, even NOKIA India came up with ‘Planet Ke Rakhwaale’ (translated to ‘Caretakers of the Planet’) take-back and recycling campaign that was extended to 28 cities in 2009. In addition, for every handset dropped in the recycle bin, Nokia promised to plant a tree and also offered a surprise gift. Over 95,000 trees have been planted in different parts of India since then by 5 NGOs under this initiative apart from collecting over 60 tons of phones and accessories in 2011 alone.
The primary difference between ITC’s WoW initiative and other initiatives is that, ITC is trying to encapsulate the young budding minds (by focusing on children and youth). In Chennai alone, students from 40 schools have been involved in the process of segregating garbage at homes and bringing the recyclables to schools so that the company collects it for use in its paper mills. Children are either awarded with money or by ITC’s stationary gift items. This strategy has been extended to Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Madurai, Cochin, Trivandrum and Bangalore as well. Perhaps its time they stretch their arms towards North India.
The problem thus mushrooming is that only 2 mtpa of paper are recovered. India imports around 4 mtpa of waste paper at around $2 billion. While around 5 mtpa of paper are dumped in garbage.
The contemporary situation tells that it is imperative to view this initiative from the perspective of benefitting the environment and not generating pure profits out of it. Although, a long-term project could fetch profits in substantial amount and help the company reach break-even sooner.
Nevertheless, the enthusiasm doesn’t stop showering. The Indian companies are becoming more and more sensitive towards taking the responsibility for the waste that they create (directly or indirectly). This indeed could be their first step towards building a sustainable green society. It is certainly not about designing complex strategies but about implementing the lucid ones efficiently.