Ensuring scrap recycling in the Indian Himalayan Region
The great Indian Himalayas are facing a huge problem of managing their solid waste. For the Himalayan
community, plastic waste is a relatively new issue, traditionally, these Himalayan communities were self-
reliant and consumed only naturally sourced materials. Today, most of the hilly tourist regions are riddled with plastic litter in every corner and gorge. Lack of know-how coupled with a large geographical area possesses a nightmare for local administration and residents.
The issue of plastic waste in the Indian Himalayas have been, in recent times, highlighted by many social media forum and activist. The traveling community in India has also taken active measures to educate and aware travelers of the issue of waste mismanagement in the mountains. The issue remains to be persistent because the consumption pattern of the mountain dwellers has also evolved over time and now, food packed in plastic containers has become part of their lives.
The Indian Himalayan region is the section of the Himalayas within India, spanning 13 Indian States and
Union territories. The region is in need of Himalayan Centric solutions to manage its solid waste, we are in conversation with one such person, who has dedicated his life to providing optimal solutions to the issue of waste management in the Indian Himalayan Region.
What motivated you to leave city life and work in this sector?
The main motivation to deliver waste management infrastructure came through the observations of my ever-changing native place. The annual trips to my village in Uttarakhand made me realize how it was evolving, with better roads and health infrastructure but also with an increased number of open dumping and burning pits with each consecutive visit. It bothered me because unlike cities my village had no dustbins or waste recovery vehicles assigned for the collection of waste.
These observations stuck with me and I decided to work on providing the required waste collection mechanism to the rural communities of the Indian Himalayan Region. I took on the challenge of building a proof of concept in the most remote and inaccessible Himalayan Union-Territory, Ladakh. I moved to Ladakh U.T in the year 2018
and haven’t looked back since then.
How do you propose to challenge the current waste management practices?
To establish a sound waste recovery mechanism, we need to first make the community acknowledge the
fact that waste mismanagement possesses a great threat to them and to the natural flora and fauna. With
this acknowledgment comes the awareness of the safe disposal methods and segregation of a variety of solid household waste.
With our interventions in Ladakh, we have been able to work alongside the Rural Development Department of the U.T of Ladakh Administration in devising the waste collection mechanism in remote yet touristy sites of Ladakh. Currently, the department is running 14 Solid Resource Management Centres across both the districts in U.T of Ladakh and ‘PlanetFirst Recycling Pvt. Ltd’ Act as a Waste recycling partner responsible for Awareness, operation optimization, and recycling of the materials collected by these centers. Our model has been proven to be successful as the centers are now self-sustaining due to the user fees collected and monetary value provided to them for all recyclables by ‘PlanetFirst Recycling’.
What is the role of PlanetFirst Recycling, a subsidiary of GDB International Inc. in developing Waste
management infrastructure in the Indian Himalayan region?
I believe it is the shared vision of Mr. Sunil Bagaria, President’ GDB International Inc’, his team, and I that
I was entrusted to be part of this journey. PlanetFirst Recycling Pvt. Ltd. is established to tackle the growing problem of solid waste in India by deploying best-in-class recycling machinery in strategic locations covering both rural and urban settlements. When I was introduced to the idea and to the team it was clear how crucial their role will be in developing self-sustaining waste collection models in the Indian Himalayan Region.
Waste management remains to be a conservative business in India with the majority of the market being handled by the unorganized sector, therefore it becomes important for ‘PlanetFirst Recycling’ to incorporate the unorganized sector. Our vision is to create micro-entrepreneurs from the scrap collected and establish a Waste-to-Wealth model where every household sees value in the recyclable scrap.
We at ‘PlanetFirst Recycling’ are now in process of establishing our first self-operated Solid Resource Collection Centre in Himachal Pradesh, where we will be setting up a network to collect waste from U.T of Ladakh as well. This will be a great development for the resident of Himachal Pradesh who is well aware of the menace of solid waste due to the heavy influx of tourists all around the year.
How do you envision the future of Waste Management in Rural India?
With the increasing narrative of cleaning up the Himalayas, FMCG brands, plastic manufacturers and the government has taken cognizance in the matter of setting up better waste recovery mechanisms in the Mountains. I am currently witnessing a push in CSR activities by big PIBOs in the Himalayan region, racing to set up waste recovery mechanisms. This is mainly due to proposed bans by the concerned state governments. I see positive change in the ecosystem and I believe the Himalayan region presents us with huge investments opportunities in Waste management and the recycling sector.