Taste for waste


AMRINDER SINGH, 57, is a government employee living in south Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar. His neighbours say he has a big heart—he donates generously for religious functions and other community services in his locality. His domestic help, too, is all praise for him as he helps her with money whenever she is in need. But when it comes to selling the waste in his house, Singh forgets his generous nature and makes every penny count.

On the first Sunday of every month, he haggles with the raddiwala (waste dealer) who goes to his house to collect newspapers. And he does so in a voice loud enough for his neighbours to hear, as if to deter them from selling their waste to the raddiwala who could be cheating them. Nothing irks Singh more than getting less from a waste collector, even if it is a paltry sum of Rs 2. To ease his troubles, he went to Central market to buy himself a weighing scale, spending more than what he could have earned by selling waste.

One Sunday, Singh saw his new tenants selling their waste paper to uniformed men at their doorstep. They had an electronic weighing scale and provided the tenants with a receipt along with the money. There was no haggling and, for the first time, Singh realised that selling waste could be smooth and hassle-free.

A click away

In the past two years, a number of waste collection centres have come up in the country. In Delhi, Raddi Express is the most active. Its website claims that it is the city’s “first professional waste paper pickup service”. At http://www.raddiexpress.com, one can either register and book an appointment with the waste collectors online or make a call to invite them home. The telecallers ask for a suitable date and time. The customer receives a confirmation call half an hour before the waste collectors reach their house. While unorganised waste collectors in the city offer anywhere between Rs 10-Rs 12 per kg for newspapers, cardboard and waste paper, Raddi Express offers Rs 11 per kg. Customers who have pamphlets distributed with newspapers get an extra 50 paise/kg. The only condition is that a customer should have a minimum of 10 kg waste paper. Used bottles or metal scraps are not collected.

Singh is one of the happy beneficiaries of this service. In the first week of every month, he pesters his son to book an appointment with the raddiwala at raddiexpress.com. Today, he sells his waste paper at best rates, without haggling.

Raddi Express is part of India Recypa Pvt. Ltd., a joint venture waste paper trading company, with its office in Nehru Place. India Recypa had tie-ups with recycling plants in the country. But it began to face problems of sourcing waste material. It then decided to enter the market by collecting waste directly from homes and offices. The company started raddiexpress.com, which became operational in January this year. At present, its “fleet on street” is 20-persons strong.

Ajay Sharma, Raddi Express’ general manager, says that the motive is to make people aware of the usefulness of recycling. This, he adds, will bring down the paper industry’s dependence on the import of raw material.

According to Indian Agro & Recycled Paper Mills Association, India produces 12-15 million tonnes of waste paper every year, out of which only 26 per cent is recycled. This is insignificant compared to what is recycled by Germany (80 per cent), Sweden (69 per cent), Japan (60 per cent) and the US (49 per cent).

thekabadiwala.com in Bhopal has been in the market for over a year and gets 20-30 orders every day
 thekabadiwala.com in Bhopal has been in the market for over a year and gets 20-30 orders every day

Sharma says the company wants to change the profile of waste collection business in India. “We are trying to create awareness among the people. But there are problems. Some resident welfare associations do not support us. When our collectors go there, the security guards hesitate to let them in and even the local raddiwala threatens them. The people in the area have to come forward and support us,” he says. Raddi Express has six collection vans stationed in different parts of Delhi and two warehouses to store the waste collected each day. When there is enough waste for a truckload, it is sent to one of the 27 paper mills with which India Recypa has tie-up. There is no dealer or middleman involved. The waste collectors directly sell their waste to the recycler, which is why the company can afford a higher profit margin.

Sanjeev Sharma, assistant manager of Raddi Express, says they get close to 100 calls a day. “We try to ensure that the calls are catered to the very same day,” he adds. A pickup van collects between 400 kg and 500 kg of waste paper per day.

Apart from providing credibility to the waste collector and making the transaction easy for the customer, the company has innovative ideas to promote its work.

One of these is the barter system. Instead of money, customers can choose products such as A4-size paper, diaries, registers, copies and spiral notepads.

Flourishing business

Raddi Express is not the only service to have gone online. Raddi Bazaar, another online portal, caters to people in Dwarka, National Capital Region, while Raddiwala has started in Mumbai. Kabadi King in Jaipur and The Kabadiwala in Bhopal have been in the market for more than a year now and boast a list of dedicated customers who supply them waste paper every month.

Anurag Asati, co-founder of thekabadiwala.com, says that the idea struck him while he was looking for a raddiwala to sell waste. “I wondered: what if there is a system where people could just call or register online and waste collectors would visit their house at a convenient time?” Asati has a team of 20-25 people. He says that he started his company with an investment of Rs 20,000 with the help of friends. Over the years, with an increase in the number of customers, the profits have increased. Now, the company gets between 20 and 30 orders every day.

Livelihood threat

Mohammed Taufiq, a waste dealer in Lajpat Nagar, does not know about the online system that could threaten his business. When asked how he would survive in the market, he said, “Jab hoga dekha jayega, abhi se soch ke kya faida? (Will see when it happens, why should I start worrying now?)” Others have devised ways to take on the challenge. “I have printed visiting cards with my phone number and address. I can come whenever people want me to. If they have a problem with the weighing scale I use, they can use their own,” says Anwar, a waste collector in Lajpat Nagar. “It is just that the computer raddiwalas look good with their clean clothes and uniform. This is just a craze,” he adds.



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