Kabadiwalla Connect (KWC), a startup founded by Siddharth Hande, wants to boost waste recycling in towns and cities by using digital technologies combined with a central mapping tool to create a dynamic virtual infrastructure that includes all recycling chain actors. Based in Chennai, India’s fourth largest urban hub, the startup’s social and environmental model is winning admirers from around the world. In India, as in so many developing economies, waste recycling is carried out by the informal sector. People work under extremely poor technical and social conditions and only collect items with some form of resale value.
KWC exists to promote and professionalize existing informal networks of kabadiwallas (waste aggregators). The startup sets out to put aggregators in touch with waste producers and provides them with an app to help them sell and arrange collection of their stocks by recyclers (KWC intends to get involved with this side of the business). Veolia’s collaboration with KWC has enabled pilot operations to be set up with some of its clients in India (Chennai and Mumbai), Indonesia and Côte d’Ivoire.
2EI, Veolia’s sustainable city and innovation consultancy team, offered to create a tech solution with KWC to map out a region-wide virtual infrastructure listing all actors and putting them in touch with each other. It also facilitates communication with the network on the part of waste stockholders and buyers of recycled raw materials, Veolia in particular, as well as with the system’s funders such as the waste producers.