Taking e-waste seriously

Taking e-waste seriously

Bengaluru-based BinBag was founded with the vision of disposing electronic waste in an environment-friendly manner. In the past three months, it has partnered with residents, NGOs and companies and helped generate 650 kg of e-waste

MADHUMITA PRABHAKAR

Picture this. You have bought a new phone, and you would like to dispose the old one, lest it collect dust sitting on your shelf. To put it to good use you give it to the scrap dealer and your relationship with the gadget ends there. But, have you ever wondered what the scrap dealer does with the parts that are of no use? Do you check if they are disposed in an environment-friendly manner?

One such similar incident is what led Achitra Borgohain to found BinBag. “I was in a similar dilemma. I wanted to dispose a gadget, but when I called the recycling centre, they said they wouldn’t accept anything less than 100 kilograms. And, when I asked them about a door-to-door pick up service, they gave a rough pick up date and said it would vary again depending on the quantity of e-waste to be collected from my area,” recalls Borgohain. As a third option, he approached NGOs in Bengaluru which act as e-waste collection centres. But the challenge there was that the NGOs were concentrated in specific locations and often, owing to traffic and distance, many people from far away locations wouldn’t take the effort to come there just to dispose off a gadget or two.

“That’s when I asked myself; how can the process be made easy?” Thus, in August 2014, he founded BinBag.

The last mile service

On one hand, BinBag partners with recycling centres, and on the other, it connects with residents, NGOs and companies, which want to dispose e-waste. “Since we are in the early stages we make a tabular record of every call for e-waste pick up. Once we’ve received a certain number of orders, we share a pick up date with the customers, we collect the e-waste and send it to the recycling centres,” he explains. Currently, the company has partnered with two authorised recycling centres. Once the orders increase, it will look at further partnerships.

Putting out the word

“If you notice the Indian mindset our people seek value in every transaction. They want something out of everything they sell. That’s why the informal sector is still operational,” he opines. Thus, in a move to encourage more people to take the sustainable route, BinBag awards retail coupons for every customer who disposes off e-waste with them. “The coupons are in the form of green points which they can redeem at stores that offer eco-friendly products,” states Borgohain. Essentially, it’s a win-win situation for both, especially, for the retailer, because he earns his focus set of customers through this initiative.

As a second strategy, it plans to increase its presence on social media sites and rope in more customers. Thirdly, as the next logical extension, it plans to explore partnerships with micro, small and medium enterprise. “They also generate a lot of waste but no recycler wants to serve them because, as individual entities, they don’t generate enough,” he points out. In fact, the company is also looking at partnering with the IT giants (like Wipro and Infosys) to collect e-waste and to encourage employees to be more environment-friendly.

In the future

During the founding days, BinBag was incubated by the NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) at IIM Bengaluru. Going forward, to further its reach, it is actively on the lookout for external funding. “Going through stages one to five, we are at stage two in the funding process,” admits Borgohain but is cautious about sharing more information.

In the next two years, BinBag aims to replicate its model in four cities and expand its team size to support operations. “The first thing we look for when entering a new city is identifying like-minded people who can sustain the initiative. Secondly, we need to create a presence in a central location with access to authorised recycling centres,” he says.

Borgohain’s philosophy is quite simple. Instead of spending thousands of dollars in propagating sustainability, he would rather identify actionable ways to motivate the e-waste generator to be responsible.

BinBag NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) Recycling Social Impact Startup Sustainability Waste Management