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Published on: March 8, 2021, 8:05 a.m.
Recykal emerges as India’s uber waste collector
  • Recykal connects waste generators with waste processors and recyclers

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

In February 2021, Recykal, an end-to-end digital ‘waste-commerce’ solutions provider, was selected as the first member from India for The Circulars Accelerator Program 2021. This program, led by Accenture, in partnership with Anglo American, Ecolab and Schneider Electric and in collaboration with UpLink and the World Economic Forum, will connect industry leaders with 17 ground-breaking circular economy entrepreneurs, to scale up disruptive, cross-sector value chain innovation at an unprecedented pace.

According to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, India generates about two million tonnes of e-waste annually, thereby ranking fifth among e-waste producing countries, after the US, China, Japan and Germany. In 2016-17, India treated only 36,000 tonnes of its e-waste. About 95 per cent of India’s e-waste is recycled in the informal sector and in a crude manner. ASSOCHAM, one of the apex trade associations of India, estimates that our e-waste generation, 1.8 MT in 2016, will reach 5.2 MT per annum by 2020.

“As India becomes one of the world’s biggest waste generators, it is crucial that our business leaders recognise waste management and recycling as an industry,” explains Abhay Deshpande, founder, Recykal. “Effective management of waste will not only bring Rs65,000 crore-plus in GDP savings to our economy by 2030, but will create 20 lakh jobs by 2025. Collaborating with The Circulars Accelerator will get us broader recognition, connectivity and the right guidance on further scaling up sustainable solutions to amplify the impact we are creating with our work.”

His is an integrated approach that marks India’s first digital waste-commerce (w-commerce) company, which connects waste generators with waste processors and recyclers and brand owners, to solve some of the biggest challenges faced by the industry. As a private company, Recykal’s gross waste value (GWV) in 2020 was Rs20 crore and its revenue Rs5.2 crore. By 2021, while the GWV will scale to Rs200 crore-plus, the revenues will be in excess of Rs100 crore.

“The company’s digital solutions are ensuring higher rates of waste collection, recycling and unlocking value for stakeholders across the waste value chain, thereby paving the way for a circular economy by ensuring more materials are entering the recycling streams and less go to landfills,” adds Deshpande who, in doing so, has saved 12.86 million kWh energy, 57.71 million litres of oil, 18.23 million cu ft in landfill space, 44.44 million litres of water and 28,047 trees.

Deshpande can rightfully be tagged as a serial entrepreneur, who has always ventured into sectors before they became the next big thing. In 1998, he started what might have been India’s first e-commerce website,, which was essentially an online marketplace for ethnic wear brands. His next start-up, formed in 2007, was a software-as-a-service company called Martjack – claimed to be one of the first homegrown SaaS companies in India. Martjack worked with companies like Pizza Hut, Walmart and Future Group. Eight years later, it was sold to Capillary Technologies. 

  • Abhay: recycling as industry

    Abhay: recycling as industry

Streamlining waste management

Deshpande did his research and decided that waste management, an industry estimated to be worth $14 billion in India by 2025, could be the next big thing for him. Along with his former associates Abhishek Deshpande and Anirudha Jalan, Abhay started Recykal in 2017, a waste collection company that works with rag-pickers, who collect waste from residential houses and deposit refuse at recycling centres.

To streamline the process, Recykal launched an app called Uzed, where individuals could schedule waste pick-ups. Recycling waste involves multiple parties – rag-pickers, waste collection centres, municipalities, recyclers and bulk waste generators, which include schools, hotels, restaurants, factories and shopping complexes. 

Soon, the company realised that one product or app could not cover everyone’s needs and particularities. As Recykal rejigged its business, the promoters felt that they should approach bulk waste generators, who could provide at least 10 kg of trash per day. That way, it would be economically viable for the company, while also maintaining a steady supply for recyclers. In 2019, Recykal pivoted to a B2B model, where it built products for everyone involved in recycling.

Abhishek, a self-starter, believes in turning ideas into reality. Thinking differently and putting in his best efforts to attain the unattainable is what motivates him to continuously improve in this ever-evolving ‘start-up’ industry. Prior to Recykal, Abhishek had worked for the Accor group of hotels as operations manager. The wasteful use of single-use plastic items (such as plastic cups/water bottles, etc) in hotels and their imprudent disposal process made him think about environmental concerns. 

“Embracing a more circular economy is crucial in determining our response to the problem of waste management that we are currently facing,” explains Abhishek Deshpande. “Through our digital platforms, such as Marketplace, Smart Centre Solutions and EPR LOOP, Recykal is channelling over 10,000 tonnes of recyclables every month, with plans to scale and influence more than two million tonnes of plastic annually by 2025.”

Recykal collects waste from various segments like consumers, businesses, aggregators and the informal sector, which are channelised to recyclers, coprocessors and cement kilns. “We have changed the status quo of doing offline transactions and have converted them into platform-based online transactions for better transparency,” says Abhishek, adding that The Circulars Accelerator, the world’s premier platform that recognises individuals and organisations active in the field, is making an effort and notable contribution to the circular economy, in collaboration with the WEF. 

HUL was Recykal’s first client. As of today, Recykal works with more than 75 brands, including Marico, Godrej Consumer, Pepsi, Unilever, LG, Panasonic, Amul, Decathlon, UNDP and Tata Beverages, to name a few. “We are glad to be associated with Recykal and its team,” affirms Karunakar Avuram, DGM, sustainability, Godrej Consumer Products. “Targets assigned by us are successfully accomplished within the timeline, along with receipt of supporting documentation. We appreciate their professionalism and conduct.”

  • Abhishek: circular economy

    Abhishek: circular economy

Good performance

“We found Recykal’s performance to be good,” observes Bipin Odhekar, head, sustainability & operational excellence, Marico. “And, their team has shown proactive commitment with timely achievement of fulfilment targets.”

Says Abhishek Deshpande: “The recycling market in India is expected to be more than $50 billion by 2025 and, with 17.5 million tonnes of plastics waste streams entering India in 2021 and with 5.1 MT of electronics waste streams being generated, there is a $15 billion-plus earning opportunity, handling these categories of waste.”

“This space has seen unprecedented growth due to the introduction of progressive laws – extended producer responsibility (EPR), for example, which makes 10,000-plus brand owners in India comply with its obligations and ensure that waste streams are channelised to the right demand side destinations. This has further catalysed the recycling (and co-processing) capacity in India, paving the way for improved recycling outcomes,” says Abhay.

The value proposition they offer is the EPR fees charged to brand owners towards fulfilment of EPR obligations through Recykal’s unique offline/digital enabled offering. Recykal’s EPR Loop provides for the highest value of traceability for brand owners and for pan-India fulfilment. “Through our Recykal digital platforms we have worked with various stakeholders across the waste value chain, digitising their transactions and channelising over 23,727 tonnes of waste, including paper, plastic, paper waste during April 2019 to March 2020,” he adds.

“We have changed the status quo of doing offline transactions and converted them into platform-based online transactions for better transparency. The value we create to the respective stakeholders translates to a bigger agenda in creating social, environmental and economic impact and also enables different stakeholders to adopt circular practices.”

“For 2021, we have targeted channelising volumes in excess of 300,000 tonnes, 80 per cent of which would be plastic and 20 per cent e-waste,” says Abhay. “Empower the informal sector sellers pan-India to find better prices and access to formal recycling streams within 2021. Over time, branch out into many new categories, within plastics and outside. In the long term, leverage innovative solutions such as DRS to bring about a major improvement in recycling outcomes. Our Recykal points have been highly appreciated by brands and recyclers alike for their cutting-edge cloud data integrations to marketplace and the EPR loop. By the end of 2024-25, we plan to have at least 100 such centres across India.”

Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) corporations are a predominant force behind the throw-away economic model, driving the plastic pollution crisis. Recognising the potential for change, the government has set up an extended producer responsibility policy to encourage manufacturers or brand owners to create markets for reuse or recycling of materials. 

To support FMCG and electronic brands run their consumer awareness and take-back programmes and comply with extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules, Recykal is ensuring convergence of solutions, transparency and traceability through the use of digital technology.

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