Given the low rate of recovery of paper in India, a small company proposes to return recycled paper in exchange for collecting paper that would end up burned or in the trash.
DELHI.- A cargo van awaits at the doors of a school in downtown Delhi. It does not come to supply but to take away. Textbooks, notebooks or notebooks whose destination would be the common rubbish bin have a new place to go: direct to the recycling factory. In exchange for the delivery, their owners will receive notebooks and paper sheets already recycled. And everything, without any cost.
In a city like Delhi, where almost the entire population throws organic and inorganic waste to the same place, this idea is at least novel. “For each kilo of paper that the client gives us, we, according to a previously agreed conversion table, return a quantity of recycled paper . It is not an economic exchange, but of products. “, says Vasudha Mehta, co-founder of Jaagruti, the young company that makes this service.
“We have a blog where we wrote a post about paper recycling and, suddenly, he started contacting us people asking how we could help them recycle.”
The idea arose almost out of necessity. Just over four years ago, Jaagruti was already a charity that worked both in the field of helping street animals and in the creation of alternatives for solid waste management. “We have a blog where we wrote a post about recycling paper and, suddenly, he started contacting us with people asking how we could help them recycle. That’s when we saw that maybe there would be a business opportunity for us, “explains Vasudha.
A few months later the work began. In December 2011 they accepted their first orders. They work with institutions or established companies that accumulate immense amounts of paper that ended up either in the trash or, if it is confidential documents, burned in a backyard. Jaagruti designed a healthier, more sustainable alternative that is beneficial for the environment “and for which they also get something in return”, says Vivek Mehta, the other pillar of the company, while we accompany him to one of the collections.
Jaagruti is responsible only for large quantities (the minimum collection is 300 kilos) provided by companies or institutions. “There is already a sector, although informal and disorganized, that collects paper in the houses.Our objective is not to occupy the position of someone who is already making a living , but to reach where it has not yet arrived, “explains Vasudha.
It refers to the so-called ragpickers and khabari-walla : the collectors who go door to door picking up all kinds of garbage and make up the start of a network of buying and selling recyclable material. It is estimated that, thanks to them, India generates 1.3 million tons per year of paper ready for recycling . But due to the laxity of the rules, it is an informal sector that escapes control: the material is lost in an endless number of intermediaries.
Before the school, the Mehta siblings and their five workers have been in a large publishing house. Going through the corridors Vasudha happily points out the posters hanging on the wall where the benefits of recycling are explained. “The first times we came here those posters were not there , ” she says proudly as she sees the changes their presence has brought.
They warn that it is not just about earning a living with this, but above all to sensitize the Indian society about the need to recycle. “People are not really aware that paper can be recycled and reused: you have the idea that someone will pick it up from the trash and it will. Even if you have an awareness, you are unwilling to make an effort and worry. “
But the change is noticed and in its four years of existence, Jaagruti already has more than 200 regular clients. Their website and word of mouth is what has worked for them. “It’s not about convincing anyone, it’s about creating in this system but above all in the need to recycle to reuse the paper.”
They emphasize the importance of paper quality for better recycling: it should not be dirty, nor wet and of course free of moths. From the place of origin it is transported to a small warehouse where it will be ordered according to the type of paper and will wait until it has enough quantity to transport it to the recycling factory.
The last step
Before the sun is too hot, the trucks are already loaded. A total of 12,855 tons of newsprint and magazines leave the Jaagruti warehouse, and link their way to the outskirts of the Indian capital, where the recycling factory depot is located. The benefit of the Mehta brothers lies precisely in the money they receive from the plant for the delivery of paper.
“In Delhi, due to the amount of water that this type of industry needs, paper recycling is not allowed,” explains Vasudha. So the role that Vivek and his team is delivering today in the warehouse will reach the state of Punjab, northwest of the country, where it will be recycled and returned to Jaagruti in the form of notebooks or paper to print.
It is estimated that there are 550 plants in India that use waste paper as raw material to produce recycled paper, cardboard and newspaper. The data are diffuse, but according to the latest available published by the Indian Association of Paper Producers (IPMA) in 2011 the paper recovery ratio in India was between 20 and 27%, a very low level if compared with Germany (73%), Japan (60%), Europe (56%) or the United States (49%).
It is estimated that the Indian recycling factories import 4 million tons of paper ready for recycling per year.
In the absence of its own material, it is estimated that Indian recycling factories import 4 million tons of paper ready for recycling per year, according to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. ” 80% of the paper we are dealing with comes from the United States, Europe and the Middle East,” confirms one of the workers at this recycling plant who prefers not to reveal his name.
The place does not stop arriving trucks that must go through the scales before being unloaded with patience by the group of men who work from sunrise to sunset . In about two weeks the Mehta brothers will receive the recycled paper they will return to their customers.
Do you need stronger laws in India that advocate recycling? Vasudha thinks a few seconds before answering that the responsibility is not only of the government but of Indian society as a whole. “It has been placed on the shoulders of the ragpickersthe job of separating recyclable products, the rest of the population disregarding that task, and that is because people have not yet understood that waste has value: recycling a product is saving on resources . “