Campus Recycling Project

A zero waste Project from Concept to Ventures

A recycling project I set up and managed for 5 years. 30 workers, 2 tonnes of waste a day, 3 ventures.

From 1998 to 2003, I was coordinating the collection of 2 tonnes of waste everyday, and when this project, the Campus Recycling Programme, finally ended there were two worker owned NGOs together servicing, in addition to the University campus, around 8 communities/ localities in the city. There had been a lot of media coverage, many invitations to speak to local community organizations, conference audiences and a role in preparing the position paper for Johannesburg 04. After the project I coordinated the preparation of a status paper for the Department of Science and Technology (the equivalent of ARC as the premier S&T funding agency) on municipal solid waste in the country. What I hold precious and which is really quite significant for me is this and growing;

  1. The lives of the project team members were transformed – 30 families had a predictable source of income;
  2. The city of Delhi and possibly India too had a community model for recycling waste; and
  3. About ten thousand households in the city had a feeling they were making a contribution to society by supporting their waste service provider.

In retrospect, the Campus Recycling Programme was for many people, in different places around the world, a lecture they encountered at an environmental event, for others it was a publication and these would be the professional groups. For people in New Delhi and elsewhere in the country they saw it in the papers – the pilot project was in the newspapers quite a lot and the collection centre gradually developed into a site for field visits by people working with waste, and also university class groups curious to see the demonstration project for themselves.  A few of the project sponsors speculated upon whether they could make the project model a business by upscaling – I did an audit project for DSCL looking at this. I visited recycling firms in Lisbon and Rotterdam and set up a dialogue between DSCL and these firms. At this time I was involved with Sajha Manch, a forum of associations of unauthorized colonies in New Delhi and helped write the waste section in the Alternative Master Plan for Delhi. Had I remained in IIT Delhi this, my identity as the waste-wallah, would have continued to grow but as it is I have moved away and back into the core practice of Industrial Design.

  • Impact: In 2003 about 2 tonnes of waste is processed every day. Approximately 90% of the waste is recycled. In year three the project team, now an NGO – Naya Savera (New Dawn) – formed by the team members, was awarded a commercial contract.
  • Award: The project was awarded the “ Indo-German Greentech Environmental Excellence Award” in January 2001 for its work in demonstrating a sustainable solution to the problem of managing waste in an Indian city.
  • Media: The project was the topic of a magazine article in a series that looked at people making a difference to society (Outlook India, 17 December 2001: “ Some time in the beginning of this year, Soumitri and Vasudevan decided to spin the boys off into an NGO to disseminate their expertise for projects outiside IIT as well”).
  • Year: 1998 – 2003
  • Location: Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India.
  • Acknowledgement: Prof. Padma Vasudevan, OP Singh, Ashish Jian, Staff and Management, at Indian Institute of Technology
  • Ventures: Indian Pollution Control Association, Prakash Environmental Group, Naya Savera.