What do you do with the money you get out of selling paper waste to kabadiwalas? Will you ever think of utilizing that money get home some beautiful, perennial or air purifying plants? Not many of us. But what if someone gets these lovely plants at your home against the paper waste? A good cause always makes you feel happy and such is an initiative by Sudha Kumari who aims to organise the waste collection sector and improve the environmental conditions for future generations. She gives plants, manure and pots in exchange of the paper waste in your home. Her initiative will make you save each paper in the house that you think is waste. All those used papers will suddenly have a worth – they are worthy enough to get you an evergreen member at home.
Sudha Kumari teaches us how to give it back to the Earth. Here are few excerpts of the exclusive interview with the lady:
1. How did the idea of Wasteroots came to you?
Before coining this idea, I met Noida authority officials to understand the current mechanism of solid waste collection. But didn’t get any transparent and positive views from them. It made me realise that process is too entangled for me to reach to the bottom of it. Hence, I started looking for ways I could contribute to waste management and we started with Wasteroots.
I germinated this idea in August 2016 and formally got it registered in December 2016 as Wasteroots (OPC) Pvt Ltd. As the name suggest Waste + roots = Paper waste exchange to plants. Along with the exchange, I also sell plants.
Seeing the mountains of waste or litter on the roadside, I was curious to know the reason behind. I found out that there are so many types of waste that is being generated but somehow lack of segregation and channelization is missing. And the thought of promoting ‘source segregation’ through the incentive of ‘Live Plants’. If waste is not handled properly, it can pollute the environment, but by adding as many plants as possible, we can contribute to uplifting the surroundings and environment.
2. Were there any startup struggles while setting up logistics. Can you share few learnings too.
Most of the people on individual level liked this idea, but when it comes to dealing with residents living in societies, we faced problem with RWA’s norms and local kabadiwalas. Since it is a normal practice that kabadiwala pays a good amount to RWA for collecting of scrap from a society, we were not allowed. Both the businesses I was involved in belonged to an unorganised sector – of paper waste and plants nursery and so it was not easy for us to enter the territories, people would just not accept a social enterprise seriously. They always compared the prices with the rates of kabaddiwala and local nurseries (plants). Cost of Advertisement was a great challenge and so we were dependent only on word of mouth and free social media.
Another huge challenge that we faced was catering to requests from distant locations. But at the same time we realized that people are conscious to contribute to the betterment of environment because their word of mouth helped us a lot. I think if consumers believe in you, it is the most powerful game changer for a business. Hence , in many societies when word of mouth was spread about Wasteroots, it worked in our favour.
3. What is the framework of Wasteroots?
We schedule pick ups for various sectors and inform people about it through messages and calls. We also share the images of plants available so that they can place their orders accordingly. People can place an order directly on the website too.
We do collective exchange and collection drive in various societies, corporate houses and schools. We also have Wasteroots Exchange Outlet where you can drop old papers and get plants or manure in exchange.
4. What kind of plant varieties do you mostly offer?
We offer seasonal flowers, shade or ornamental plant, perennial plants of various sizes and in various types of ceramic pot , clay pot or FRP pot (some times).
5. What do you do with the paper waste?
We send it back to paper mills. There they are again being used for making different paper. We accept various other paper waste like books, magazines, notebooks, office papers etc.
6. Which kind of plants are more in demand?
Most of the people looks for pre-potted Air Purifying Plants and perennial plants.
7. Has the perception about your business changed from ‘accepting waste’ to ‘giving plants in exchange of waste’?
Yes, idea has now been accepted at national level. This is also because media, societies and corporates joined hands and helped it spread all over.
8. What are your plans for future?
We really want to reach out to people of Delhi NCR, Pune, Mumbai, Banglore and more. We have not been able to provide service to all those who have connected with us from distant cities but we are looking to investment more so that we can spread the initiative at national level. We wish to see beautiful plants in all homes and diversify waste category to make it impactful and sustainable.