Joseph Jegan and his wife Sujatha really wanted to be eco-friendly, but they just didn’t know how. “You might want to recycle your old plastic bottles and cans too, but do you know where to go and what to do? Raddiwalas would refuse to buy these items. The gunny bags used to carry these things would be more expensive than the scrap itself,” recalls 30 year-old Jegan, over the phone from Chennai.
The lack of a system or an incentive to recycle was probably what prompted their decision to start up the website Kuppathotti (.com) (which means ‘trash can’ in Tamil) in seven months ago. Today, the site is a rage, and Jegan is positive that the idea will work in other metros as well. “We plan to target cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad next,” he says excitedly, adding that expansion should take about 6 months atleast. The company is still in the process of “streamlining its systems.” And yet, more than 900 Chennaites are happy customers.
Once you’ve registered on the website, you click on the items you want collected and recycled from your house. The guys from Kuppathotti, wearing blue uniforms and armed with gunny bags, collect the trash for a fee that is calculated according to the weight of the ietms. They segregate it at their Kodambakam-based godown, before they pack it off to wholesale recyclers. This ensures that plastics and other materials hazardous to the environment are scientifically recycled and reused in a way that they don’t cause any further pollution.
“It’s so convenient,” says S Lakshmanan, a 37 year-old who has been employing Kuppathotti’s services for the past four months. “Even if I move houses, all I have to do is inform them and they will start coming to my new house. If not for them, I would have had to go hunt for a raddiwala.”
Also on the Kuppathotti wishlist is e-waste recycling. They used to collect e-waste, but have had to put it on hold for the moment. “We have to wait for a certification from the Chennai government before we put it back on the list,” rues Jegan.
“People tend to sell their e-waste (such as mobile chargers, DVD players etc) to scrap dealers. But e-waste always comprises a large number of items and scrap dealers will not dismantle them. It is not eco-friendly to dispose of it this way,” says the former IT Team Leader, “Creating awareness is essential.”
“Once we get the certification we will be able to tie up with a proper e-waste disposal company that will help us stay eco-friendly,” he concludes, hoping to encourage others to do the same.