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Opportunities for Entrepreneurs in Waste Management

Opportunities for Entrepreneurs in Waste Management

Organized at 3 PM GMT on 16th September, 2015




This panel was sponsored by the Earth Engineering Center, Columbia University

Earth Engineering Center, Columbia University


Ranjith Annepu moderated the panel and conducted the global waste survey to choose topics for the 2015 Global Dialogue on Waste

Madhumitha Rajendran
Madhumitha Rajendran performed background research for the panel


Swetha Dandapani has put together a quick summary of the panel and some of her favourite quotes from the panelists for you.

DANIELLA RUSSO, Think Beyond Plastic

Thinking beyond plastic is where the biggest growth is, the biggest opportunities are and we are looking for transformative solutions that not just solve the problems, but create jobs & opportunities in communities across the world.

  • The question we need to address is “Is there another way for us to use plastic and is there another material which can be used in lieu of plastic?” – This is not a question that activism society can answer, this is a question that entrepreneurs and innovators can answer.
  • We are looking for disruptive innovation in material manufacturing, recycling and design.
  • Material innovation includes any material that has the properties of plastic without the toxicity & the challenges – it has to be cheap and it has to be able to be manufactured in scale.
  • Innovation in recycling is also badly needed since the conventional methods of recycling only deals with conventional plastic.
  • Opportunities not only exist in identifying these solutions, but also in early stage investment in such innovations.

We need to think of waste not just as something to deal with but something to transform by going upstream

  • Our accelerator educates on where the problems are, where opportunities are going to be, where investment is going and teach them entrepreneurship.
  • We have a competition that encourages entrepreneurship & innovation specifically around plastic.
  • There was money in recycling. Increasingly this is not the case any more especially with PET plastic because the cost of virgin oil has dropped so low,there is no incentive for collection.


The consumption of plastic is ever increasing, especially in developing countries.

  • The challenges are different in developing countries when compared to European countries, since the problem lies in collection.
  • Small entrepreneurs can participate in recycling since there is money in collecting recyclables.
  • Existing structures/ systems to encourage entrepreneurs: We support entrepreneurship by training, we setup funds and entrepreneurs can apply for loans. We also have an incubator.


It is not about which parts of the process provide entrepreneurship opportunities, but it is more about the mindset (with which we approach all processes).

  • In European countries, the money is not in collection, but in high quality processing.
  • ..In a lot of houses, the bin for residual waste is a lot nicer than the bin for paper, etc. Combinedly it takes a lot of space to separate waste. So, we designed a bin that you can put on top of each other.

Traditional engineering is still needed, but we need new perspectives to the old problems.

  • We are not only searching for the idea, but we are also trying to implement it using new engineers and designers.
  • Existing structures/ systems to encourage entrepreneurs:There are lots of accelerator programs in Europe.

(Accelerator programs are important, but) At the end as an entrepreneur, you have to do it yourself. You should be specific about which accelerator program suits your needs.

  • We should explain to others outside the sector, why waste is a really urgent problem – as important as water, sanitation & education.
  • It should be in the top 3 of our problems and we should solve it as a sector. After that opportunities for entrepreneurship will come by itself.


In India, waste is government property. There is no privatization. We are trying to develop a low cost solution to the waste problem

  • We have various initiatives such as – Donate Dry Waste, Compost At Home, Total Waste Management and Segregation Centre Management.
  • We offer the power of technology to the lowest strata in waste work. We ensure that the waste picker community can take ownership.
  • Existing structures/ systems to encourage entrepreneurs:We are trying to attack the problem in 3 routes – identify credible NGOs, identify credible organizations that may not be part of waste & ask if they would like to take up the job and an active 6-month incubation model.

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