Social Startups

Waste Ventures : Investing in Startups Powered by Garbage

Waste Ventures plans to use garbage to maximize gain for waste pickers. They have developed a model that can help waster pickers increase their earnings 3 fold and are now helping waste picker cooperatives adopt this plan. Waste Ventures is like a venture capital firm for the waste sector – they incubate, invest and do all that is needed to help their portfolio organizations (run by waste pickers) to scale and become profitable in less than 4 years.

Why Waste Pickers?
Waste pickers are people who exist in most developing countries, earning through processing recyclables at the cost of their health and dignity. You’ll find them on the dumping grounds or going from bins to bins in cities, sorting waste with their bare hands, picking out plastic, bottles, cans, anything they could find to sell to junk dealers. They earn less than $2 a day from selling recyclables. About 50 million people globally rely on waste picking for their livelihoods and the trade mostly involves women and children. Though waste pickers carry out very important recycling services for cities all over the developing world where consumption generates tons of waste every day, they live and work in deplorable conditions, face low social status and get little support from local governments.

Waste Ventures wants to change the game for waste pickers by unleashing their profit potential. Having worked out the strategy and the numbers on how lucrative a business waste management can be, Waste Ventures is all set to transform the lives of waste pickers one country at a time.

Waste Ventures Strategy
Waste Ventures have identified multiple sources of revenue from waste processing – fee from waste collection from households; selling of recyclables; selling of compost generated from processing organic (food) waste and earnings from carbon credits for preventing emission of green house gases. Starting with India, which has the highest number of waste pickers in the world, Waste Ventures is helping organized waste picker groups generate revenue through these 4 key sources. They have so far undertaken two projects in India, yielding great returns. With their intervention waste pickers salary has jumped from Rs 70-80 / day ($1.5-2) to Rs 130 ($3) and additional income of Rs 80-100 / day ($2-2.5) selling scarp.

By training and professionalizing waste picker cooperatives, Waste Ventures is not only helping waste pickers increase their earning capacity dramatically but also reducing the amount of waste going to landfills almost by 80%. Their model has significant social and environmental returns besides economic.

What do you think about their model? What are the main challenges you think they would face in implementing this? Please share your comments below.

To learn more about their work visit their website