Importance of Public Private Sector partnership in Waste Sector In India

Posted by Global technology interface on November 10, 2021


The role and intervention of private sector in municipal solid waste management is growing rapidly in the country. The initial attempts of large-scale private sector participation kicked off sometime during mid-1990s in few progressive metro cities like Chennai, Hyderabad etc., aimed at achieving operational efficiency gains with managerial capability of private sector, however it was limited to specific components of collection, transportation and road sweeping in the entire MSWM value chain. 

During late-1990s, the urban local bodies (ULBs) gradually realised the imperatives of processing/recycling solid waste to reduce the burden on landfills. This along with notification of MSW Rules (Management & Handling) 2000, making waste processing and development of sanitary landfill mandatory, resulted in spurt of initiatives by urban local bodies of even tier II cities apart from metros for establishment of processing facilities and engineered sanitary landfills. This was majorly driven with private sector participation due to technical, financial and managerial constraints at ULBs level and led to an increased involvement of private operators during mid-2000 with successful implementation of public private participation (PPP) projects in the components of waste processing, sanitary landfill and closure of existing dumpsites. 

More recently in the late-2000, it has been observed that there is traction in the large private sector companies to invest and manage projects on primary collection & transportation, which was earlier limited to local contractors only. Moreover, few integrated projects have also been successfully developed on PPP formats including integrated processing & disposal as in the cities of Coimbatore, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Ahmadabad and also integrated MSWM system for entire value chain to a single private operator as in the cities of Guwahati and Hyderabad. 

Start-ups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have already begun to profit from effective waste management. Furthermore, with the planned creation of 100 smart cities in India, getting involved in effective waste management solutions will position companies and investors to benefit from India’s planned industrialization in the near future. Indian SMEs dealing with waste management have focused on the industrial processing of waste – recycling, producing fuel from municipal waste, or large-scale composting. SMEs also look to professionalize informal networks of waste collection on a larger scale than start-ups.

Recently, The Startup India Action Plan which was unveiled by PM Modi aims to set up 35 new incubators based on the public private partnership (PPP) model. A step in reinforcing the growing startup ecosystem in India, investors and firms alike hold the view that government funding within the ecosystem is a welcome sign, but running incubators should be left to the private sector. 

Started as an NGO in 2001, Saahas has over the past decade evolved into a for-profit business under the brand name of Saahas Zero Waste. The Bengaluru-based startup, backed by Indian Angel Networks and Upaya Social Ventures, today caters to clients from Bengaluru and Chennai. The social enterprise has diverted over 15,000 tonnes of waste from reaching landfills, and currently prevents 25 tonnes of waste from reaching dump yards on a daily basis.

Bengaluru-based Hasiru Dala caters to over 25,000 households in the city and manages more than 700 tonnes of waste every month. The non-profit provides waste management solutions to apartments, corporate offices and at events, and also helps design, set up and maintain urban gardens.

Citizengage, Bengaluru-based waste-to-resource technology startup has built an end-to-end waste management system that helps communities and businesses manage their waste at source. Started in 2015, this Tech30 startup has recycled nearly 4,000 tonnes of waste. It has helped convert over 5,600 tonnes of waste into biogas and compost, and also diverted waste to piggeries.

Pastiwalla, a paper recycling company in Gujarat, for example, employs over 500 garbage collectors to visit half a million households in four cities. Professionalizing informal garbage workers – derogatively referred to as ‘rag pickers’ – will help initiate a cultural shift in how garbage is perceived in India. This will in turn enable greater innovation in terms of how garbage is collected and processed. 

Some of the achievements by SMEs in waste management are enumerated below;

  • Professionalizing informal waste sectors;
  • Conversion of municipal waste into fuel on a large scale;
  • Recycling plastics into polyester yarns that can be resold for both consumer and industrial packaging;
  • Collecting and treating municipal waste;
  • Collecting and treating industrial waste; and
  • Processing biomedical and other hazardous wastes.

India’s regulatory landscape is increasingly opening up to foreign investors, private companies, and SMEs in waste management. ULBs should reach out to the private sector to create sustainable and efficient waste management plans. 

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