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TrashCon’s waste management technology is a step towards India’s ‘zero waste’ goal

Deepak G Pawar

With growing urbanisation, the issue of solid waste management is becoming grimmer. Is the mere announcement of the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ enough to deal with the situation? Nivedha RM, founder of TrashCon, a Bengaluru-based start-up, thinks it isn’t. “To attend the goal of ‘zero waste’, micro-level waste segregation and management is necessary,” she explains.

To achieve the same, TrashCon came up with a micro-level waste segregator which is economical, easy-to-maintain and provides a real-time solution compared with existing options in the market. The R&D for the machine started back in 2016 but the company launched the product only in August 2017. The start-up received a grant of Rs.10lakh from the Karnataka government for being one of the 100 innovative start-ups in the state. The company has also received Rs.15 lakh funding from IIM Bangalore and Rs.15 lakh from Shell India.

Under the existing system across India’s municipal corporations, garbage is taken to the waste processing plants and after segregation, it is sent to the wet waste and dry waste management centres. The processed waste is finally disposed in landfills. Since the whole process is centralised, there’s no monitoring at each phase.

Meanwhile, TrashCon makes it all happen at one place. The waste is put into a preliminary hopper that takes it through a pre-sorting process. The conveyor sorts waste of all kind — clothes, metals and low-quality plastic, which is then shredded. The shredded waste is then converted into non-biodegradable waste that is collected in a disengagement zone. The entire process takes about 40 seconds and requires only one operator. 

Though the idea looked good on paper, Nivedha realised what was wrong, soon after installing the pilot plant in Bengaluru. Initially, TrashCon’s machine used to get overloaded and jammed once in three days whenever municipal workers would put in a lot of trash. So the start-up standardised the trash flow. No matter how much dump one puts in, the machine would take only as much as it can handle. Increased moisture content in the waste after rain also caused the machine’s air blow to be ineffective. So, the company came up with a product that can deal with all the waste, regardless of the moisture content. The machine, which requires a three-phase power supply, is also aiming to reduce electricity from 7HP to 5HP, with help from Shell India.

The cost of TrashCon’s machine varies from Rs.5 lakh for a 500-kg capacity machine to Rs.25 lakh for 10-tonne capacity. There is a sharp contrast in prices, seeing that the machine used by the municipal corporation costs Rs.1.25 crore for a 1-tonne machine. According to Nivedha, the machine is easy to assemble, as required.

The start-up hopes to receive about Rs. 13 crore in the second round of funding in September. It has received orders for four machines so far that should be installed by the end of February.

TrashCon is also in talks with the municipal corporations of Bengaluru, Tiruppur and Erode. Besides, TrashCon is also ready to offer the machine on lease to residential complexes for Rs.80 per house per month. With an ambitious target to sell around 35 machines at an average cost of Rs.15 lakh by the end of FY19, the company’s projected revenue target is Rs.5 crore. India still has a long road ahead to completely modernise its traditional waste management systems, but Nivedha’s efforts are the much-needed small steps towards a cleaner environment.