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Trash to Cash
ITC’s wealth out of waste (WoW) programme shows how a simple habit change
can significantly benefit the company, the society and the country. N. MADHAVAN

AGPICKING, ONE WOULD waste paper is a key raw material. They

Cash at the doorstep:
WOW workers assume, is the last area a cor- import around 4.6 million tonne from
collecting segregated porate would want to foray Europe and the US every year at a cost of
solid waste from into. But for ITC, which had in $750 million (Rs 3,750 crore). But what
residents in Hyderabad the past entered unorganised turns this perfectly normal business action
businesses such as manufacturing match into a colossal waste is the fact that of the
sticks and incense sticks, it is a potential 8.5 million tonne of paper consumed
gold mine. Consider this: for 80 per every year in the country, only 1.4 mil-
cent of the 630 paper mills in India, lion tonne get recycled back to the

110 BU S I NESS TODAY AP RIL 5 2 0 0 9

industry. Over 7 million tonne of In Bangalore, 30 IT com-
waste paper, almost 1.5 times panies are a part in this ini-
of what is imported, find their tiative. Waste collection has
way into landfills and is perma- touched 600 tonne per month and
nently lost. 165 employees are involved with
“We don’t believe in at source the initiative. ITC, which has begun
segregation of recyclable waste. to partner with Ramky Enviro Eng-
Every type of waste—be it paper, ineers—India’s largest waste man-
metal, plastics, food and other wet agement company—for the initiative
contaminants—is put in the same is targeting collection of 2,000
dustbin and is rendered unrecy- tonne in 2009-10. “The response
clable. As a result, waste paper rec- from people to this initiative has
overy level in India is a poor 14 been enthusiastic wherever we have
per cent compared to 70 per cent in launched it,’’ says Bhamidipati.
Europe and the US. The same can be It has also caught the attention
said about other waste such as met- of policy makers. Andhra Pradesh
als and plastics,’’ says Jogarao government wants the company to
Bhamidipati, Vice President, ITC, roll out the programme across the
Paperboards and Specialty Papers state. Chennai Corporation has
Division, and Head, Wealth out of asked the company to commence
Waste (WOW) Initiative. operations in two localities in the
ITC launched WOW in April city. Ministry of Urban Dev-
2007 to inculcate the habit of seg- elopment wants ITC to replicate
regating waste and increasing the WOW in 52 municipalities across
level of recycling garbage. “WOW the country for which it has pro- WoW!!
is a perfect example of ITC’s triple vided funds for solid waste man-
bottom line approach of economic agement under Jawaharlal Nehru Wealth out of waste
viability, social responsibility and National Urban Renewal Mission. programme benefits
environmental impact,’’ says The company, for its part, plans to all stakeholders.
Bhamidipati. The Initiative works scale up its presence in Andhra People: Extra income, as they
like this: ITC provides every house- Pradesh to 52 municipalities, - get paid at their door step Rs 4
hold in a chosen locality with a expand operations in Coimbatore a kg for paper and Rs 2 per kg
bag to put all the solid waste, inc- and start pilot projects in Chennai, for plastics and metals
luding paper, metal and plastics. Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram and ITC: Access to raw material
The kitchen and other wet waste Kochi in 2009-10. locally that is cheaper by
are kept separately for disposal by The interest the project has gen- Rs 1,000 per tonne
municipal authorities. Once in erated is understandable considering Municipalities: A 30 per cent
10-15 days, WOW team visit the that it benefits all the stakeholders reduction in solid waste
households and collect the recy- involved and not to mention, the generation. Could save as much
clable waste after paying Rs 4 per environment. “No one throws waste as Rs 30 crore a year or more
kg of paper and Rs 2 per kg for outside, not even a bit of paper. in collecting and transporting
plastics and metals. The garbage Housewives are happy that they waste to landfills
so collected is then transported to get money for the waste they nor- Government: Communicable
the junkyard where it is segregated mally throw away. The streets are diseases decline. Disasters like
and sent for re-use. The paper also clean. We want to extend WOW the Mumbai floods in July 2005
waste is baled and sent to ITC’s to cover the entire city,” says R.R. can be avoided as plastics and
reprocessing plants. Balasundaram, Honorary Secretary, other solid waste will no more
What began as a pilot project Residents Awareness Association choke the drains
in Hyderabad less than two years of Coimbatore, an NGO run by citi- Environment: Higher waste
ago has now spread to 15 munici- zens of Coimbatore to bring aware- recovery means lesser use of
palities in Andhra Pradesh. In Tamil ness among the city’s residents about natural resources. Higher
Nadu, a pilot project is on in comfortable living. paper recovery leads to
Coimbatore involving 5,000 houses. On an average, 30 per cent of enhanced greenery

A P R I L 5 2 0 0 9 BU S I NE S S TO DAY 111
Paper Work
 Consumes 8.50 million tonne
of paper annually
 Fells 17 trees and consumes
7,000 gallons of water for every
tonne of paper produced


 Imports 4.6 million tonne of
waste paper worth $750 million
from Europe and the US for
paper production
 Recycle paper effectively. Used
paper recovery rate is just 14% as
against 70% in the US and Europe
 Segregate waste at source.
This results in about 7 million
tonne of paper waste ending Jogarao Bhamidipati: Mainstreaming ragpicking
up in landfills
CONSEQUENCES erested. There are other benefits as plastics, steel, aluminium and cop-
By 2025, India’s paper well. “In most cities, landfills are per substantially impacts the nat-
consumption is estimated at fast filling up and identifying a ural resources.
26 million tonne new site is difficult due to NIMBY If at all someone has been
(not in my backyard) syndrome. hurt by WOW, it is the ragpickers
To meet that demand, at
current recovery rate, it would A 30 per cent reduction in garbage and scrap dealers. But for this, too,
mean cutting over 300 million would mean a longer life for ex- there is a way out. Every town of
trees and consuming 100 isting landfills,” says Rajesh 50,000 households requires
billion gallons of water Lakhoni, Commissioner, Chennai employment of 50 indirect labours
Corporation. under WOW. ITC has offered them
Segregation and recycling of the employment, thus ending what-
waste (especially plastic) has pre- ever little resistance the project trig-
vented drains from getting choked. gered initially.
This has led to better sanitation Considering the benefits WOW
and fewer diseases. “Within two generates, ITC is working with
months of implementation of WOW Indian Paper Mills Association
in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, we not- (IPMA) to get other paper mills to
iced a significant drop in commu- take up this initiative. “Our aim
nicable diseases,” says Khader Saheb, is to attain waste paper recovery
former Commissioner, Eluru level of 70 per cent as in devel-
the waste generated—cities do Municipal Corporation. He has rec- oped countries in next 10-15
generate large quantum of waste ently joined the WOW project in years,” says Bhamidipati. Time is,
every day (see Wasted Waste)—is Andhra Pradesh. indeed, running out. India’s paper
recyclable. Implementing W OW For ITC, the waste paper col- consumption is estimated at
means a 30 per cent reduction in lected by WOW is a crucial raw ma- 26 million tonne (currently
waste handling and related costs. terial—Rs 1,000 per tonne cheaper. 8.5 million tonne) by 2025.
Hyderabad municipality, for ins- The environment is the biggest To meet this demand, at existing
tance, spends Rs 10 crore every beneficiary. Every tonne of recy- waste paper recovery rates, more
month for handling waste. A 30 cled paper prevents 17 trees from than 300 million trees need to be
per cent reduction in garbage vol- being felled and saves 7,000 cut and additional 100 billion gal-
ume leads to Rs 3 crore saving per gallons of water. This means lons of water will have to be con-
month or Rs 36 crore a year. So more greenery and improved sumed. The consequences of which
municipalities are naturally int- rainfall. Similarly, production of could well be imagined. ■

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