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Niraj Kumar
Niraj Kumar

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Waste to Wealth

We all produce waste. Some try to monetize it – get the value out of it, while some can’t. We try to keep our home clean and in the process we throw away our garbage without even putting a second thought to the value of it. I have seen my mother selling old newspaper, clothes, bottles, metal and with that savings would buy us treats. However, us city-dwellers lack patience, and space to store our garbage to be able to monetize it. Scrap dealers do not pay nicely unless there is good volume of valuable garbage for him.

Waste Bank!
But, what if there is a waste bank? What if a bank could convert our garbage to money? Imagine a scenario where a waste collector would come to our house daily or at a scheduled time to collect our garbage, and pay us for our garbage? I would use it. My family and my neighbors would use such services as soon as they see the value of their waste. This is a sound business strategy, albeit not a new one. Some tried, and most failed, because they got drowned in the operation phase and could not scale quickly. Such service can become profitable only at scale. Some of the waste can be quite valuable even in small quantity while some need grater volume to become valuable. Every piece of garbage has a value – biodegradables can be used to generate biogas and compost. Glass, plastic, clothes, metal, electronic items are recyclable.

Benefits are innumerable – however the most prominent one is clean environment with proper waste management. This sector needs another Jeff Bezos. Dedicated, intuitive, driven and fierce; Someone who values efficiency at every step; think and plan for long term. Because, with efficiency in place every single piece of garbage can be monetized and used properly instead of polluting our environment and putting humanity at risk. Value can be extracted from the low value garbage only with better efficient process and at larger scale.

How technology can help!
When I think about how technology can help this sector, I immediately think about how amazon used automation to put efficiency in its chaotic fullfillment centers. He constantly hammerd an already optimized and highly efficient process to make it more efficient. Similarly, automation and reiterative optimization can help in highly evolved garbage grader and sorter which will calculate and notify the value of waste in realtime. Garbage collection can be extremely inefficient. Data Science and machine intelligence can help in efficient route for garbage collection. Batch number based waste collection – automated grader and sorter would pick up batch number while sorting the garbage bag and immediately update the stats for the batch which customer can view on web-portal or can receive notification on their mobile app. Technology can help tremendously in putting efficiency in the operation and making the process profitable.

Note: I have witnessed some startup charging money to collect waste. What are they thinking? They should pay for collecting waste. But, I guess that will take some more time.

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