Banyan: An Endeavour for Gold Standard in Recycled Plastic
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
The bustling metropolis of Hyderabad generates about 4,500 tonnes of solid waste every day. Contrary to popular perception, as much as 70% of the waste is recycled in India, thanks in large part to a network of ragpickers, who scavenge heaps of trash everyday to pick products that can be recycled.
Banyan Sustainable Waste Management Pvt. Ltd, a year-old start-up founded by two software engineers, is trying to bring transparency to the unglamorous world of recycling.
A layer of industrial units has existed for around 30 years to recycle the waste our cities generate. These units are largely unorganized and make recycled material of unreliable quality. Another layer of resellers keeps the pricing opaque, affecting the economics of companies buying recycled plastic.
Banyan uses technology to tackle some of these issues, setting it apart from roughly 200 peers in Hyderabad. The founders—Mani Vajipey and Raj Madangopal—devised Android applications to map stationary recyclers within a 15km radius of their plant in Balanagar Industrial Estate in Hyderabad.
The kabadiwalahs, as stationary recyclers are known locally, are crucial to Banyan’s supply chain as they feed them with the raw material—in this case, plastic scrap. The data gathered on stationary recyclers allow Banyan to gain insights into the business of kabadiwalahs and select the best suppliers to work with. It also helps it optimize operations to build a sustainable business that can be scaled across multiple cities.
Banyan recycles two types of plastic: polyproplene (used in chairs, mugs and buckets) and polyethelene (shampoo bottles).
Starting a unit to recycle plastic wasn’t on the minds of Vajipey and Madangopal when they quit their jobs in the US in June 2013. Vajipey, who did an executive MBA from Columbia Business School and University of California Berkeley, prepared a business plan to convert biogas to electricity, and shared it with Madangopal in 2012.