EcoEx, a start-up in the plastic waste management sector, has launched India’s first digital marketplace to facilitate exchange of plastic credit certificates and strengthen the plastic recycling infrastructure. In conversation with Financial Express Online Nimit Aggarwal, Founder, EcoEx shared his views on the plastic problem India and the world is facing at large and how the plastic credits works. Excerpts:
Can you explain in detail what EcoEx is and how does the platform work?
EcoEx is the first digital trading marketplace facilitating the exchange of plastic credits certificates. The EPR policy introduced in year 2018 in India places responsibility on the manufacturers to recycle the plastic they generate and ensure its end of life and one of the ways proposed by the government. is through plastic credits which ensures that a certain quantity of plastic was efficiently collected and disposed. We saw an opportunity and catered the need for a platform that connects recyclers, producers & brands to meet the EPR obligations. We bring plastic recyclers & collectors from the unorganized sector together with brands for a transparent, fair, seamless exchange of credit certificates on our technology supported by NCDEX (National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Limited).
How much plastic waste has been recycled till now?
Since September 2020, we have facilitated exchange of more than 2000 tons, i.e. more than 20,00,000 kgs of plastic credit certificates on our platform.
Can the plastic credit model solve India’s plastic waste problem?
One solution is not enough to solve the plastic problem in India. However, Plastic Credits model is a very credible part of the solution. There is minimal awareness on waste management industry and its potential. Without waste management, we won’t have a clean environment to live in. In fact, we will not have the environment to live in future. We are trying to create a value chain where polluters take responsibility through our platform, and the recyclers and waste collectors from unorganized sectors get their right price for services. We are definitely contributing to the solution of the plastic waste problems in India through our digital platform by bringing the stakeholders of waste management industry to the organized ambit
What is the market size of the industry?
Before we entered the business, I got a KPMG technical viability study done back in 2019. According to them, waste management in India is 9.76 million tons per annum, growing at 16 % CAGR. These numbers are enormous; we are recycling only 60% of plastic generated. Out of which, only 0 .6 million tons of plastic is meeting EPR obligations. To analyze a market at an initial stage is difficult. But at a macro level, I can say it’s one of the booming markets in the world.
Do you think India has inadequate recycling infrastructure? How much waste management in unorganized sector is unaccounted?
The infrastructure in the recycling industry isn’t adequate in India. Both the government and the industry need to invest. I have been working in this industry for the last 11 years and had the privilege to see the unorganized sector closely. The market is very informal, which perhaps allowed us at EcoEx to work on credible solutions. According to reports, it is estimated that 60% of the plastic waste gets recycled and the remaining 40% gets into landfills and oceans. In our opinion, the figure may be exaggerated, and the actual numbers could be close to 40%.
What policies shall government work for the Plastic Waste Management in India?
I feel the government is taking the right steps with Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Atmanirbhar Bharat, Smart cities and many more. Through our talks with government stakeholders, I have learned that they are inclined to a constructive approach to waste management by government bodies. I think a public-private partnership otherwise will provide a better seamless process with prospects of mitigating the problem at hand. I have personally seen this public-private partnership model in success in countries like Singapore. The private sector has invested in waste management and have managed to work in collaboration with consistency.
Do you think comparison of Singapore with India appropriate, given our different demography?
Of course, it is not, in terms of the context of the appropriate models in given demographics. I am hinting at the conception and prospects that we can explore in India for the better management of plastic waste.
Is plastic credit model better than the current model in India? What is the future of plastic credit model? Are there any countries who are practicing it?
We lack infrastructure in the current model as well as there are ambiguities in the EPR guidelines as mentioned earlier. I feel the plastic credit model has a bright future, which is also mentioned in the Draft papers of the Government to tackle waste management in India. The plastic credit model is very efficient in the United Kingdom. It’s not just in the realm of plastic credits and EPR, they are also using this for every other commodity. The government spearheads the charge, and it has transformed waste management in India. It has worked well in the UK, but it won’t be fair to compare both economies. We may have to revise it slightly to fit the requirements of the Indian market.
What is the Market Size that EcoEx is targeting?
Speaking of plastic credit certificates today, the market would be around INR 3,000 crores. So, we would want to capture at least 10% of market in next 3 years.
We are not just a company with an entrepreneurial mindset, we aim to bring change and foster equality. In driving the global sustainable development goals, we also want to support the unorganized sector that didn’t get the correct value earlier.