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Value Chain of Indian Solid Waste Management Sector

Updated: May 4

The whole value chain can be divided in 4 broad segments viz. Generation, Collection/Supply-chain, Segregation and Treatment/Disposal. Let's break down each of these segments one by one:

  1. Generation - this segment relates to the generation of solid waste of hazardous and non-hazardous nature from various sources. Major stakeholders in this segment include:

    1. Households, Schools & Public Places generating domestic waste like food, paper, different types of plastics, aluminum cans, clothes, scrapped electronics, furniture, etc.

    2. Commercial Establishments like offices, restaurants and shops generating commercial waste like packaging materials, office supplies, scrapped electronics, paper, food, etc.

    3. Construction Sites generating construction & demolition (C&D) waste like cement, debris, bricks, stones, paint, chemicals, etc.

    4. Factories and Plants generating industrial waste like chemicals, food, packaging materials, discarded materials, pollutants, scrapped electronics, metallic scrap, etc. of both hazardous and non-hazardous nature.

    5. Hospital, Clinics and Labs generating bio-medical waste like gloves, masks, needles, medicines, chemicals, etc. of both hazardous and non-hazardous nature.

  2. Collection/Supply-chain - this segment relates to the collection of solid waste by various stakeholders and also the transportation of such waste from the point of generation to other touch points down the value chain. The major stakeholders in this segment include:

    1. Rag pickers - These are informal waste collectors who majorly carry out the collection of waste in India today. They play a significant role in the waste management sector of India and are indispensable. They buy waste from door-to-door in bulk and then sell to Aggregators or Kabadiwalas at a profit.

    2. Municipal collection - The Municipal Corporations are the main govt. body responsible for collection of waste across all municipalities in India. They either appoint an NGO to carry out the work of collection OR deploy their own resources (bins, people and trucks) to carry out the collection. Municipal waste collectors usually collect waste only from bins installed by the municipal body and the streets monitored by it.

    3. Private enterprises - In several municipalities, private enterprises have started taking scrap in bulk. These enterprises then segregate the scrap in their facilities and then supply it to recyclers. They usually deal in very specific category of trash like metals/plastic/paper.

    4. Non-government organisations (NGOs) - Several municipal bodies have tied up with NGOs to carry out the work of collection. These NGOs also carry out training programs for their people and make efforts to improve the livelihood of waste collectors.

  3. Segregation - this segment relates to the segregation of waste into different categories like food, paper, glass, aluminum cans, metal, e-waste, different categories of plastic, and textile. In India, most of the segregation is carried out by manual labour. The major stakeholders in this segment include:

    1. Material Recovery Facility (MRF) or Waste Processing Centers run by local government bodies - MRFs are facilities, usually set up by the local government body like municipality or urban local body (ULB). Municipal trucks and waste collectors deposit waste collected by them into these facilities, which is thereafter segregated into dry and wet categories, and further into different categories. Since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission, several new MRFs have sprung up across the nation with ambitious targets for even more.

    2. MRFs run under the PPP (Public-private Partnership) model - Several state bodies have appointed private enterprises to set up and operate MRFs. These players have the liberty to deploy machines and manual labour to segregate the waste and thereafter sell them to recyclers or aggregators at a profit. For example, Nepra is a private enterprise that runs a semi-automated MRF in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India.

    3. Kabadiwalas - These are privately owned small businesses that collate the waste collected from rag pickers, segregate them to a certain extent and then sell ahead to aggregators who deal in specific categories like plastic or glass.

    4. Aggregators - These are also privately owned small businesses that deal and specialize in specific categories of waste like plastic or metal scrap. They purchase the waste materials from rag pickers or kabadiwalas and thereafter segregate them into sub-types (like in case of plastic, rigid plastics, PET bottles, PVC pipes, etc.) at their facility with the help of manual labour. Segregated waste is then sold to recyclers at profit.

  4. Treatment/Disposal - this segment relates to the recycling, upcycling or reuse of waste OR disposal of waste into landfills or dumpsites. The major stakeholders in this segment include:

    1. Recyclers - These are privately owned small to large businesses, operating established recycling plants that recycle a specific waste category like plastic, e-waste, paper, bio-medical, glass, textile, EV batteries and C&D waste.

    2. Producers and Brand Owners - Under the latest EPR guidelines of the Government of India, plastic producers and brand owners using plastic packaging must participate in the plastic waste value chain by taking necessary measures to ensure that plastic waste is subsequently subjected to recycling.

    3. Govt./NGOs/Private Enterprises operating Waste to Compost, Waste to Energy and Waste to Electricity plants.

    4. Landfills/Dumpsites


Now that you have a fair understanding of India's Solid Waste Management value chain, let's look into the technology innovations that are disrupting each node of this value chain in India today:

  1. Generation:

    1. Alternative materials (like bamboo, pinatex, cork) in consumer & fashion goods to replace leather and polyester

    2. Bio-materials for packaging to replace plastic

    3. Sustainable construction material

    4. Green chemicals to reduce hazardous industrial waste

    5. Online marketplace to buy and sell used goods Notable startups: String Bio, Bambrew, Zerocircle, Canva Loop

  2. Collection/Supply-chain:

    1. Digital platforms for on demand scrap collection

    2. IoT enabled smart bins

    3. Platform to integrate informal waste collectors

    4. Online marketplace to connect buyers and sellers of recyclables

    5. Digital platforms for end-to-end supply chain management, including traceability, analytics, and certifications

    6. Platform for fleet tracking and monitoring

    7. Blockchain for traceability

    8. Platforms for brand owners to track plastic footprint and analytics. Notable startups: Saahas Zero Waste, TheKabadiWala, Recyckal, ReCircle, RePurpose

  3. Segregation:

    1. Robotics and AI/ML to segregate dry waste into different categories

    2. Automated segregation systems to replace human labour

    3. IoT on conveyor belts

    4. End-to-end waste management solutions that also undertake segregation activity Notable startups: Ishitva, TrashCon, Banyan Nation

  4. Treatment:

    1. Recovery of critical materials from EV Batteries

    2. Reuse of EV batteries

    3. Technology to convert waste into compost, animal feed or biogas

    4. Plastic used for making roads or pavement blocks

    5. Bottle to bottle recycling

    6. Plastic to textile recycling

    7. Innovative recycling equipment like washing and de-inking technology

    8. Extraction of rare earth metals from e-waste

    9. Recycling of sanitary pads

    10. End-to-end waste management solution Notable startups: Lohum, PadCare, Nepra, Lucro


This article is a part of the April'24 edition of our Startup Newsletter. Here's the complete publication:


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