Banyan Nation took its inspiration from the Indian practice of downcycling plastics instead of recycling them. The problem posed by the high volume of non-recycled plastic gave Mani Vajipey some fodder to exercise his problem-solving acumen, and, under the able guidance of Ron Gonen, who himself happens to be a U.S. pioneer in waste management. In 2013, Vajipey founded Banyan Nation. Banyan Nation was initially incubated at Columbia back when Vajipey was pursuing a degree at Columbia Business School.
Soon after all of this, Vajipey was joined in his zeal by Raj Madangopal, who was his batchmate, and hails from the University of Delaware. In the next few years, Banyan Nation was transformed into one of the leading lights in the sphere of waste management in India under the careful guidance of the founders, aided by key advisors and investors. The spotlight is at the moment fixed on the firm, having been a finalist at the World Economic Forum’s Circular Economy Awards.
For the uninitiated, Circular Economy refers to the practice of recovering, recycling and reusing raw material during the process of manufacture. Contrast this with the traditional model where the materials are abandoned just after a single cycle. As it might be guessed the circular process extracts maximum value, saves billions of dollars and reduces the ecological cost. Bayan Nation has started its operations from a 20,000 sq ft facility located in Hyderabad, where it employs its propriety plastic cleaning technology.
How the company helps save the environment
Banyan Nation cleans plastic waste before re-engineering them to a state close to virgin plastic. It can handle 1,200 tonnes per year. The company has developed a thermal tech that rids plastics from contaminants which include labels, metals and the like. In the Indian scene, most recycling is informal and illegal. The cleaning is rudimentary which the quality of the material and renders it unsuitable for reuse. This explains why recycled plastic is in such short demand here as compared to Western markets.
Banyan has names its virgin grade recycled plastic as Better Plastic and has been successful in generating considerable demand for it in the short of its operations till yet. In fact, Tata Motors usr Better Plastic in its auto components and the cosmetic giant L’Oreal has put it into use in product packaging. Tata uses them in car bumpers, while the latter introduced better plastic-made shampoo bottles in the previous year. This has helped put this Hyderabad based startup in global map as far as sustainability is concerned.
“Recycling activities in India are mostly driven by market forces that are informal, illegal and largely invisible. Banyan is innovating and integrating the informal sector and providing consistent quality recycling. By taking a complete value chain approach, we have developed innovative technologies that clean plastics to eliminate all potential contaminants,” Mani Vajipey, co-founder and CEO of Banyan Nation, says.
He continues, “It is our mission to help brands sustainably ‘Make In India’ by replacing the use of virgin plastic with recycled plastic that is comparable in quality and performance. Within the next decade, almost all mainstream plastic products including food grade packaging will obtain recycled materials.”
Something even more
Indeed, Banyan Nation focuses primarily on plastics, but the startup has spread its wings to become an IoT driven platform for waste management. This is a throwback to the initial days of its operations when it had created a data tracking platform which gave a detailed overview of Hyderabad’s waste streams.
“The app we created maps over 1,500 stationery recyclers. Data shows the amount of waste coming out and the local efficiencies in collection and transportation of the waste. We have mapped the kabadiwalas and integrated the supply chain,” inform the founders Mani and Raj.
The government steps in
The Telangana government soon took notice of their IoT-enabled tech, and last year Banyan Nation got a MoU, or Memorandum of Understanding, with the government. The government wants to use its dashboard to manage waste electronically. The model can be adopted by other cities and states with ease, making scaling easy.
As Mani says, “Governments spends hundreds of crores on waste management every year. But the entire data is offline.” The demand for both a tech-powered waste management platform is high across the length and breadth of the country. Banyan Nation is also looking forward to increasing the number of units of plastic recycling centers. But the plan, according to Mani, is that “the facility will remain in Hyderabad, though last mile collection will be pan-India.”