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Innovations That Are Driving Funds Into The Recycling Sector With its rapidly growing population, burgeoning cities, and rising economy, India faces significant challenges in managing its waste, especially from its urban centers. As urbanization intensifies in the country, so does the generation of waste, and the country has not been the best of examples so far, of sustainable disposal of the same.

By Prince Kariappa

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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With its rapidly growing population, burgeoning cities, and rising economy, India faces significant challenges in managing its waste, especially from its urban centers. As urbanization intensifies in the country, so does the generation of waste, and the country has not been the best of examples so far, of sustainable disposal of the same.

In response to this challenge, the recycling and the circular economy sector in India has seen a substantial rise, driven by innovative solutions, coupled with supportive government policies.

India generates approximately 62 million tonnes of waste annually, with urban India contributing a significant portion according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India. Out of this waste, only about 30 per cent is recycled while the rest finds its way to landfills or just remains untreated. This not only has severe environmental implications including land degradation but also leads to contaminated water and air especially surrounding the urban centres.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) had previously predicted that the market for recycling in e-waste alone will grow at 30 per cent CAGR for the period 2020-25. Moreover, India generates approximately 3.2 million metric tonnes of e-waste per year and is only expected to increase by 5-10 per cent each year.

Ravneet Mann, Chief Officer, Strategy and Policy at Stride Ventures said,"The rising awareness of environmental issues and a solid push from government initiatives, set the stage perfectly."

The Indian government has been proactive in addressing waste management issues. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission), launched in 2014, aimed at making India clean and promoting sustainable waste management practices. Additionally, the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, and the E-waste Management Rules, 2016, have set clear guidelines for waste segregation, recycling, and disposal.

"We're not just cleaning up our act; we're setting up for a boom. The Indian government's focus on circular economy principles is creating a fertile ground for recycling startups to flourish," opines Ravneet.

The government has also been undertaking various missions in collaboration with foreign bodies to improve knowledge sharing. One such event happened very recently in June when the Indian mission in Kuwait held discussions focused on the enhancement of bilateral trade and exploring new avenues to collaborate including food processing, recycling, and manufacturing.

Stride Ventures themselves have been involved in the act with investments in the green economy and have reportedly crossed US$ 120 Million in investment in India's climate-focused startups. The firm is also aiming to enable investments ranging from US$ 500 Million to US$ 1 Billion in cleantech globally over the next 4-5 years.

One of the startups in its portfolio, Lohum operates a battery recycling technology, extracting over 95 per cent of valuable materials from used batteries. In total, by the end of 2030, Lohum aims to save 4,000,000 MT of CO2e by 2026. "Their approach to battery recycling addresses the critical issue of e-waste while supporting the EV industry with a sustainable disposal solution," adds Ravneet.

The favorable regulatory environment and the urgent need for effective waste management have catalyzed the growth of recycling startups in India. These startups are leveraging technology and innovative business models to tackle various types of waste, including plastic, electronic, organic, and industrial waste.

Waste-management using cloud

Merging tech to innovate and address issues has been a theme across different sectors and Recykal joins the list as they aim to clean the planet with their cloud-based waste management and processing system. The Startup recently secured an INR 110 Crore Pre-Series B funding from 360 ONE Asset Management. The startup has raised a total of US$35 million to date.

"The company has demonstrated significant progress and scale in achieving circularity of value chain, as opposed to the traditional linear 'take-make-dispose' approach, by solving for demand aggregation and resource utilization, which we believe is imperative in building a sustainable future," said, Sameer Nath, CIO and Head of Private Equity at 360 ONE Asset as reported by Inc42.

'Greenhouse' effect

One good example of recycling greenhouse gases has been brought by String Bio, a developer of a patented process that can recycle greenhouse gases into value-added products such as feed for livestock.

String Bio's proprietary technology converts methane into a single-cell protein that could provide a sustainable alternative in animal and human nutrition as well as agriculture products, with a focus on improving the sustainability of crops and food production, land, and water use.

Woodside Energy Group invested a US$9.9 Million equity investment in String Bio and is part of Woodside's program to spend US$5 Billion on new energy products and lower-carbon services by 2030.

Woodside CEO Meg O'Neill said the company aimed to thrive through the energy transition with a resilient and diversified portfolio and its investment in String Bio builds on its ability to potentially abate greenhouse gases through the conversion of carbon into useful products.

"We believe String Bio's technology could eventually be used to recycle methane at Woodside facilities. It could also be deployed at third-party sites with available biomethane such as landfill facilities and farms," said Meg O'Neill.

Challenges and opportunities

Opportunities in this space are vast because the problem of recycling itself is in itself major. Increasing awareness along with supportive government policies does provide a conducive environment but it's the innovation that will drive the investors into pushing funds to solve the larger issue.

Prince Kariappa

Features Content Writer

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