Sujata Shrestha and her team of freelancers wanted to start an independent project to help with Nepal’s waste management issue. She says it all begins with awareness, we all know about the waste management issue but we need more information on waste segregation, who is collecting our waste and when. In order to facilitate us with that info, her team is working on their idea “Smart Waste Solutions”, a platform to help coordinate all the different players in the context of solid waste management. There are several organizations in the waste management sector now and she is very optimistic about the results this will bring. In her interview below, she tells us more about the idea.
1. Could you give us a general introduction to your idea?
Right now, we’ve just got an idea. We didn’t have a business plan because we didn’t have the expertise for it. We have a group of us freelance professionals who participated in the Smart Urban Tech Challenge where we first presented our idea for Smart Waste Solutions. We wanted to devise an idea that could help with solid waste management so we started with awareness programs for schools and colleges. We felt it was important to find smart solutions to waste because what we consider waste can be a resource. The goal was to create an app and a website with information on waste collection time, information on waste separation and once we could initiate our own waste collection services, we would have a rewards system as well. The current issue with waste is not necessarily a knowledge problem, in my opinion, but more of a behavioral problem. We want to create incentives for segregating the waste and allow people to receive rewards like a reduction in membership charge, coupons or recognition.
Another feature of our product would be networking because there are already several organizations that work with specific kinds of waste like metal, compost, biogas, etc. and once everything is segregated it’s possible to deliver the waste to each organization. We also want people in the community to be able to participate in the process and become ambassadors for waste collection in their area.
There are several solid waste management organizations in place now and that’s good because they are doing great work. With more organizations, there is bound to be more competition and contribution to the issue.
2. What are your challenges?
Right now, we have an issue with space, don’t have anywhere to store and segregate the waste. We have to protect it from water damage as well so we’ve been collaborating with people but we still haven’t figured it out yet. It’s all about coordinating activities to increase awareness and also get a productive output. A big issue with the waste collection is when the vehicle comes to collect rubbish they take the separated waste and toss it into the same pile. At that point, it seems pointless to segregate your waste. I wanted to create something that helped this scenario.
3. Why did you choose to work on this issue?
I was always passionate about environmental science and always wanted to do something, but got busy with working for other people on projects that they were interested in. Then I had a baby and couldn’t do anything professionally for a certain period of time. I brought my own team together too and the SUTC program really helped refine the idea.
4. What was your previous work experience?
I have my own consultancy called Nepal Consults. It’s a private organization that is also a startup. We can start this app or initiate awareness programs through this organization as well. We also collaborate with an NGO called Suiro. It collects plastic as a Corporate Social Responsibility, the plastic also has a high value of recyclability. I have a lot of experience with writing environmental impact assessment reports.
5. What phase is your organization currently in?
We have only just begun, we have a page on facebook. We have a prototype with some of the features mentioned earlier. It’s not going to be one organization either, we are trying to collaborate with several different organizations. We may or may not start our own company but regardless, my interest lies in working on solid waste management issues.
6. How has your experience with entrepreneurship been so far?
Right now, it seems like there’s nothing but hurdles. Our ideas aren’t clear, we sometimes have conflicting ideas, we’re looking for investments, we’re having trouble working with the government; it feels endless. But it is part of the process and we have accepted all of our challenges. Anyone can start becoming an entrepreneur or a problem solver if they wish to.
7. What are your future plans?
I teach, alongside my consulting work, and I’m looking into preschools right now. I feel like preschools in Nepal could do a lot better, additionally after doing some research I’ve found that most of these children don’t seem to be sufficiently exposed to nature as they grow up. I want to work on something that promotes that. A healthy environment is a must for growing children just like it is for us. I want my work to be environmentally focused on whatever it might be. I want to tell people who work in this sector, we need to work together because at the end of the day this is for all of us.
For more information about Smart waste solutions, please contact Sujata Shrestha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewed and article by Jyotika Shah.