Scott Anderson

The Value of ‘Waste’: Waste Capital Partners Sees Value in Impact Bonds, Franchising

Parag Gupta, CEO of Waste Capital Partners, has a vivid example of how much solid waste is produced each week across urban India: twice the weight of the Empire State Building. Only about half of that garbage is actually collected by municipalities for processing. Travel just a few miles from the city centers and you’ll find farmers with crops experiencing “soil fatigue” from the overuse of fertilizers.

These are two mammoth problems, but Waste Capital Partners is expanding a closed loop solution that could benefit hundreds of millions of stakeholders, including more than 1.5 million waste pickers in India, most of whom work outside of the formal economy.

Waste Capital Partners is comprised of both for-profit and nonprofit entities. The for-profit Waste Ventures India employs informal door-to-door garbage collectors and works with municipal systems to compost trash and resell it as organic compost to farmers to improve agricultural yields. In Telangana, India, the for-profit operates in cities reaching 240,000 people, Gutpa says. The company also helps municipal partners train and manage about 200 municipal workers in the collection process. Waste Ventures also has signed a third partnership, expected to start in the next month, that will reach another 300,000 people, Gupta said.

The nonprofit arm, Waste Impact, meanwhile works with various waste management players to test several methods of socially inclusive and financially/environmentally sustainable waste management practices. Based in Bangalore, the nonprofit plans to soon begin working in Pune.

I had a chance to interview Gupta several months ago at the Business Call to Action 2014 Forum. In the time between our discussion and today, Waste Ventures India has been developing two initiatives in India. One is a franchise model, for which Waste Ventures is raising funds, with the goal of diverting 83 percent of waste away from landfills while doubling the incomes of the waste pickers. Waste Ventures is partnering with Hasiru Dala, a network of 5,000 waste pickers and I Got Garbage, an online performance management platform that tracks the data.

A second initiative is related; a waste impact bond aimed at financing contracts. Waste Ventures has an investor letter of interest worth $7.5 million. The organization sees the sector as perfect for impact bonds because of tangible and measurable results, including job creation, volume of waste that is composted and/or recycled, and the percentage of waste diverted from landfills.

The results of those two initiatives will no doubt be the subject of future posts. For now, here’s our interview.

Scott Anderson is the managing editor of NextBillion.

Agriculture, Education, Social Enterprise
impact bonds, impact investing, skill development, social enterprise, waste