TedX speaker, honorary PHD and Recycle Man of India are just some of the titles that rest lightly on the shoulders of Binish Desai, the maverick of India’s waste sector. Basing all his work on the principle that waste exists only because of human beings and what is waste to one may be useful to another, he runs Eco Eclectic Technologies, which has identified and works with over 100 kinds of waste to transform them into over 200 useful products, ranging from tiles and toilets to his latest creations — jewelry and crockery made from tea and coffee waste, and bricks made from PPE. Pages and books have been written about his journey; we asked him a simple question – why and how does he think the way he does, and how has this led to his success? Here’s what he had to say:
I believe that there is nothing useless in this world. Every kind of waste needs to have a proper socially, environmentally and economically viable solution. There is so much waste out there that unless we do this, we cannot create an impact on a large scale.
What is recycling?
Understanding a material and then converting a material into a product. I first understand the properties of the waste — is it fibrous, is it flexible, can be it be combined with any binders? Then we find an application for it in a product.
Waste is like a natural resource; you just need the right tools to mine it. I first develop a specific technology for a specific type of waste. Until a product is not commercially viable and cannot sustain the day-to-day functions of the plant (which is different from being profitable), it does not qualify as a product for me.
Let us take coffee waste as an example; if I look at what processes this goes through before being generated, and try to make bricks out of it, it won’t cost more than three rupees per brick. But this won’t make sense, because the properties of coffee waste will not add to the value of the product, no matter how much waste is available for processing.
A lot of people who are working as recyclers are actually just segregating. Most people are looking for ideas to do something with the waste they are collecting and segregating. Technologies that have been developed in the past and elsewhere are being used; there are very few who are innovating.
What we are doing is taking all segregated dry waste that would have eventually ended up in a landfill, and providing solutions for it. I’m a technology provider; I start pilot-scale plants for proof of concept to explore what can be done on a commercial scale, after which I open to others on a franchise basis for them to run.
I like to disrupt a market in a sustainable manner, rather than going all in and facing all kinds of challenges. I’d rather overcome challenges on a smaller scale first.