Kabadiwalla Connect: going the e-way for waste management

Waste management is now just a text message away, with Kabadiwalla Connect’s tech-savvy attempts to make waste segregation smoother

Every time the garbage bin in the apartment complex in Mylapore fills up with plastic, Santhanam, the scrap-dealer in the neighbourhood will get a text message on his phone. He will cycle to the place and pick up the waste. Imagine this system in place across the city — plastic will seamlessly be segregated and recycled.

Our scrap dealers, who are doing us and the environment a huge favour, will finally be included in mainstream waste management. This is the idea behind Kabadiwalla Connect’s latest initiative Recycle Chennai.

Recycle Chennai employs smart bins called Urbin that have built-in field sensors so that we know when they are full. “Right now, there are two bins each at Viswakamal Apartments and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore, and Women’s Christian College,” says Prajeeth S, Growth Manager, Kabadiwalla Connect. The project is at the pilot stage and is part of the 150 picked from 2,000 applications from across the world by the Global Innovation Fund to be showcased in Expo Live 2020 in Dubai. “The event happens every five years and is like the Olympics of innovations,” explains Prajeeth.

Kabadiwalla Connect: going the e-way for waste management

The idea, according to Prajeeth, is to integrate the smart bins with the local scrap dealers who form the informal sector. He explains how once the bins, employed to segregate plastic, are 80% full, the kayalan kadai kaaran (scrap-dealer) will be sent a text message. “The bins have hooks that are attached to jute sacks,” he explains. “He will simply unhook the sack and replace it with another one.”

The Recykle app will give users information on the Urbins and scrap dealers in their locality. “The bins will have a QR code that users can scan when they drop the waste; take a picture of it and post it,” says Prajeeth. They will get points for this and subsequently, gifts, such as discount offers on food delivery platforms. “Right now, things are at a very experimental stage,” says Prajeeth. He explains how Santhanam told them how the plastic waste he collected at one bin was contaminated with other kinds of waste.

Their team hopes to iron out issues like these in the long run; they hope to create a mindset for base-level waste management in people. “As we scale up, we want to look for people who promote recycling,” he says. Their team is seeing how things are working out with Mylapore as their test-bed. He adds that they picked Mylapore since the area is home to several green initiatives. The team aims at spreading their initiative across the city by January next year.

As much as it is about segregating and recycling plastic, Recycle Chennai is about celebrating the scrap dealers, the “unsung heroes” in our society. “You should see Santhanam’s shop on Mada Street in Mylapore to understand this,” says Prajeeth. “He’s so entrepreneurial,” he says. To think that he’s right on the main road, doing such important work, ignored by the rest of the world.

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