The Good Road

Apart from providing sustainable source of income to waste-pickers,the pilot project Swach Tech Lab also aims to turn them into micro-entrepreneurs.

Published:December 9, 2013 1:38 am

As garbage in the city increases everyday and the need to manage waste more efficiently becomes a matter of high priority,the discourse on waste disposal is seldom focused on waste-pickers. Their livelihoods remain impoverished and they are at risk due to various health hazards their work involves. However,in a new initiative,SwaCH,an autonomous enterprise that provides front-end waste management services to the citizens of Pune,and ProtoPrint,a social enterprise based in India,have collaborated to resolve the problems of waste pickers.

The groups have initiated a pilot project called as Swach Tech Lab in Pune,a filament lab which houses low-cost machines and trains members of the lab to process high density polyethylene (HDPE) waste to quality HDPE printer filament. Through the sale of the filament,it provides waste pickers with a sustainable source of income and creates a group of c. In turn,ProtoPrint produces 3D printer filament from the plastic waste. Known as additive manufacturing or 3D printing,it is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model,which is derived from the filament waste collected by the c— overall an eco-friendly process.

Speaking on the initiative and the benefits it provides to the waste-pickers,Pratibha Sharma,assistant business manager of Swach,says,“The key aspect of this pilot project is that we are trying to make it a sustainable initiative. If you look at the market,the waste-pickers don’t get the real value of the waste they collect; while with us they get fair price. We are also trying to engage the waste-pickers by employing them and helping them become micro-entrepreneurs,which will improve their livelihoods,”

Talking about the waste-pickers employed so far,Sharma says,“We have trained only one member so far — Komal,who’s a second generation waste-picker. We wanted young people who are enthusiastic and could add entrepreneurship skills to their work. We trained her for a month and she now works with us after college.”

The initiative will be tested for six months before any further expansion is proposed. “We are still tweaking the cost models as the prices of filaments can vary and then there are a lot of market-related variables involved,” added Sharma.

Elaborating on the collaboration,Sidhant Pai,CEO of Protoprint,says,“Each step of our supply chain adds great value,making ProtoPrint a sustainable,scalable business that gives back to the waste pickers up to 11 times their current wage while empowering them socially. Where social barriers often dictate occupation,this is of significant value.”

The profits generated from the business will be used for expansion,positively affecting the lives of thousands of waste pickers while using eco-friendly materials and environmentally beneficial technology.

Swach Tech Lab will be showcased at the expo ‘Inclusive Innovations 2013’,on December 10 and 11 at the Agriculture College grounds.

Fahad Ginwalla

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