Very few companies have managed to develop environmentally sound technologies for waste treatment based on recycling. In an exclusive interview to CONSTRUCTION OPPORTUNITIES, JAIDEEP SAPTARSHI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VERMIGOLD ECOTECH PVT LTD, discusses their niche products and services in organic waste recycling, and the magnitude of waste management problem in India.
Tell us about the types of organic waste treatment and recycling technologies/services offered by your company.
We primarily offer vermi-composters for decentralised waste management, and we have also recently started offering waste-to-energy bio-gas solutions.
Major challenges faced in designing customised solutions in different segments.
Firstly, in real estate, space is a big challenge, therefore products have to be compact. The developers want products that do not create any nuisance, nobody wants a system that generates foul odours or that generates flies. So this is one of the challenges.
On the other hand where the buyer and user are same, they are looking more at life cycle cost as well as efficiency of products. If a corporate is buying our product, they look not only at the capex but also the opex. Whereas developers are not yet looking at the opex, that is not their problem, they are primarily concerned with the cost of the product and the space it occupies. These are the two main challenges.
Tell us about your collaboration and joint product development with Tat-G Corp Pty Ltd, of Australia.
Our product is basically designed in Australia, at Tat-G Corp Pty Ltd, and we manufacture the product in India. That is our association with Tat-G Corp Pty Ltd, technology transfer. The basic design we customised for Indian conditions, that’s how it has been jointly developed. We have introduced many more variants of the basic design, and developed it for the Indian market.
Tell us about the capacities of your treatment plants.
We have plants from 50 kilograms per day for domestic uses, it ranges from 25 to 50 apartments, and then it goes onto one ton and above, up to two tons, up to three tons we can provide facilities for decentralised waste management. A typical two to three ton plant should be sufficient for a township.
Do you also provide the servicing and operations service to your clients, to the clients who need repairs.
We provide support to the clients in terms of training their operators, but the facility is typically done by the client, we do not offer facility management services.
We have a network all across India, and can provide support within 48 hours anywhere in India. One of the unique points about our systems is that they are zero maintenance systems. Like in our organic digester there are no moving parts, so there is no question of any mechanical maintenance that is required over a period of time.
What is the amount of value recovered from organic waste in money terms.
In our system there are two valuable outputs that are recovered. One is vermicompost, firstly there is 90 per cent waste reduction, so there is about 10 per cent vermicompost generated which is like tea powder can be directly used as a garden fertiliser. Secondly there is vermiwash a liquid fertiliser that gets generated. This is more valuable than solid vermicompost. If vermicompost gets retailed at Rs.25 a kg, vermiwash gets sold at Rs.65 a liter.
Green certifications of your products and services.
We have been listed by the United Nations environment program as the only Indian supplier who complies with their norms for sustainability and we are listed on the UNEP database of sustainability system providers.
Which sectors are the biggest demand drivers for your products.
Let’s divide the market into two segments, one segment is driven by regulations where it is mandatory, other is for CSR or green building, because it gets bonus points for Green ratings. It’s basically 80:20 – 80 per cent is driven by Regulations and 20 per cent is because of CSR. One of the things is that in India (unlike many other countries) there are lot of population pressure. So we do not have the spare land that can be given for processing of waste and hence the need for on-site waste recycling.
How affordable are your products for affordable housing segment.
If you look at the per apartment initial performing cost of our system, its only around Rs.3,000 – Rs.4,000 per apartment which we think is a very reasonable onetime cost. But we still face one of the biggest mental blocks in India, the NIMBY syndrome or “not in my backyard.” It’s not that people don’t want to spend, people say “not here, not in my backyard,” let somebody take it away and dump it somewhere. We think that three to four thousand rupees we could provide a solution for waste management. More importantly, if you look at the operating cost of our system, it would be hardly Rs. 100 per apartment, which is a very low cost, and they will get much more valuable fertilisers which people can use for their internal gardens, or they can even donate to tree plantations, basically it wouldn’t go waste.
You have won the Energy Globe Award, what best practices helped you win the award.
The Energy Globe Award that was given to us by the Austrian Trade Commissioner. This award is for innovations in the environment space, it’s not just waste management. The most important criteria they look at, is this product sustainable, and can it help local communities. One of the things that goes into our system is composting worms, we have tie ups with farmers to source these worms. For farmers, growing worms is an alternative income source, so the Energy Globe also looks at it. Secondly can it also generate income for the lowest, and thirdly even the operators earn additional income. So they look at the holistic perspective. It’s a very inclusive development where we are getting in high technologies and making the benefits reach the lowest strata of society.
What is your assessment of the magnitude of waste generation in India, at least organic waste which is where you are focused on.
I think waste disposal is a huge problem and the government has to take a very holistic view on solving this problem. They should get Best-in-Class practices to manage existing dumps and provide incentives for decentralised waste management because our population is growing but our land space is limited. All legacy developments there cannot install decentralised solutions because they don’t have enough space. So centralized waste management will remain in India. In developed countries they are processing waste in a centralised manner, we need to take a different more unique way. We also need to encourage decentralised waste management because the population pressure on our cities is much more than in many other developed countries.
What is the approximate volume/value of the organic waste recycling market in India.
Most of the waste is getting carted via trucks to dumping grounds, instead of being recycled. Unfortunately not much money has been spent into creating facilities for waste processing. The government needs to invest in waste processing facilities, because ultimately this waste is not something that evaporates in a day, there is a science behind disposing it off. Just as there is a science to dispose off sewage, there is a science to dispose off solid waste. This is a huge problem and it is really difficult to put a monetary tab as to how big the issue is, but it is a serious issue that needs to be tackled.
How ready are Indian towns and cities to operate smart waste treatment facilities.
I think one of the core things where India is lagging is that, waste segregation is not done at the household level, so it becomes difficult to operate. However smart the systems are, they will only take in segregated waste, there are technologies that take in all kinds of waste streams, but they are quite expensive, and these are at a centralised level. So, basically Indians have to change their mindset and even at the flat level you have to have multiple coloured bins. In a lot of foreign countries there are four to five coloured bins. They have different colours for organic waste, different for glass, different for plastic and something else for sanitary waste and bio-medical waste you have different bins. When you have waste segregation at the root level, then the efficiency of these plants would be much higher, and that is where India is still lagging behind.