Alchemix Session 2: DIY Waste Management
The session is yet to start. Poonam Bir Kasturi asks for water to drink. She is handed a plastic container with drinking water. Uh oh. And we jump directly into garbage.
Sustainable enterprise solutions in waste management.
That’s the challenge we are discussing. 3500 Tonnes of waste is generated each day in Bangalore. Approximately 80% of that waste is wet waste...kitchen waste from food and vegetables. However only 10% of all waste is really re-used. The rest goes to fast filling landfills or accumulates in slums en route to the landfills as waste pickers try and salvage things that can be re-used and sold.
Poonam, Founder of Daily Dump Home Composting Solutions, tells us in her characteristically matter-of-fact manner that by itself the plastic container she holds in her hand is 100% reusable. By itself, ALL food waste is also reusable. Mix the two in your garbage bin: plastic cups, rotten tomatoes, milk packets, fruit peels… And NONE of it can be reused – without, of course, lots of energy (and human dignity) being spent on segregation.
It’s a distasteful subject. But the economics of waste and the rapidly increasing size of the problem are transforming it into an entrepreneurial opportunity for those who are willing to go beyond the immediate smelly product at hand and find ways to build sustainable business models that work with involved community members.
No doubt that waste management is going to be a huge innovation need area for growing urban centers like Bangalore. In that context when Poonam shared the self-sustaining, for-profit model of Daily Dump, a few things struck me as excellent ingredients for building and scaling such a social enterprise.
The 4 scale ingredients from the DIY model that Daily Dump has built:
In a tough challenge area such as this, where people have strong reactions to managing waste, engaging in discussion, experience and learning becomes such a critical element. Daily Dump does it in many layers:
- “Disgustingly cool books” for 8-12 year olds on issues of reuse/ waste/ recycling
- The Trash Trail – an experiential 2-day journey through the City’s trash trail, meeting all the people who make a living on this trail. How much closer can you get to engaging with the real problem? And the number of real champions that you can create? Its real engagement. Read a report on the Trash Trail HERE.
- A Facebook page where customers put up queries and get responses/ ideas/ solutions from Poonam…creating discussions and a forum to share.
Integrating the earthen Pot into the product design makes the ‘Khamba’ an indigenous product that also provides a fillip to the dying cottage art of pottery. Potters are able to combine their art form with a highly utilitarian impact – increasing the value of the pot and applying it to a real need area. Many potters across India have now adopted the Khamba model as an evolution of their art form. Directly impacting livelihoods. Potters have gone on to innovate further and there are several variations of utilitarian products made from earthen pottery techniques. These Khambas are also pretty, can sit at the end of your garden and easily handle sun and rain. Great utilitarian design adapted from a locally available art form.
Some ideas excite us because they have the capacity to solve big problems with a small but smartly applied tweak or leverage. And the leverage in the case of Daily Dump is the DIY element of re-usability and waste management. While the Government tries to solve the big issue of waste management (and seems very ineffective in doing so), Daily Dump provides a method to raise awareness by engaging people – and giving them an easy DIY method to work around waste. It’s a small attempt right now, but if enough people in the city adopt it and start composting 80% of their overall waste (which is what wet waste constitutes) – we would have reduced the total amount of waste that gets into the formal waste management system – thus making it easier to solve that problem.
Obviously the most difficult part of any passionate initiative made charmingly simple by the Daily Dump team. You like the idea of composting? What to know how to do it yourself? Want to replicate the Daily Dump Model? Willing to sell the ‘Khamba’ composters? Download a PDF under the creative commons license, agree to the terms. You are set to go. Cloning, in the way that Daily Dump has evolved it, provides such a beautiful blend of the inherent passion needed (people reach out and offer to be cloned)– and the knowledge needed to hit the ground fast. This method also forces the core team to ensure that their model is easy to understand, product is easily available and enough documentation exists to make this an easy process for adoption. Around 20 Clones right now and growing. More details on Cloning Daily Dump available HERE.
So, coming back to innovation and scale. If you are working on a really tough challenge area (cannot get more smelly than garbage…. no wait, the next post is about human waste!) and are finding it tough to scale your idea and make it sustainable, might be worth asking yourself:
- What are you doing to really engage people into the subject? How are you creating champions of the challenge?
- Is replication time consuming and intensive? How can you make it pull based? Why are interested people not reaching out to you already? If they are why is it tough for you to help them?
- Is the design of your product / service inherently simple and easy to scale? Can a lot of people get involved in producing on working on your product at a very low cost?
- What’s your leverage? How is your solution tweaking the problem in a way that it becomes easier to ‘handle’ at a huge scale?
These and more such questions form the basis of every Alchemix Session. It was a pleasure to interact with Poonam – thank you for joining in and sharing your insights!!
Want to know more about Daily Dump? Visit www.dailydump.org
Want to join the next Alchemix Session at the Innovation Alchemy Hub? Visit the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/innovationalchemy ) and Like it, you will get regular updates on these sessions.
Have a point of view, disagree with what’s written here, or agree and wish to elaborate further – please drop us a comment below! Thank you – and see you at the next Alchemix Session!