The Optimist Citizen

A 13-year-old builds a platform that lets people buy upcycled products in exchange for waste

When the other students his age learned the concept of waste management like any other science lesson, 13-year-old Vikramjeet Singh Kanwar saw it as an opportunity. The Gurgaon boy started MaxXchange, a platform that enables people to exchange their dry recyclable waste with upcycled products like home decors, stationery, glassware, etc. 

VIkramjeet Singh - Founder, MaxXchange
VIkramjeet Singh – Founder, MaxXchange

The journey of MaxXchange started back in 2015 when Vikramjeet, also affectionately called Max, was in the fifth standard. Students were supposed to take up a project through which they give back to society as part of their curriculum. Max decided to contribute through waste management. He started collecting newspapers from his neighbours and would sell it to a local scrap dealer. With the received money he would buy stationery items for the underprivileged children. The thought was welcomed in the first few months. However, he noticed that the amount of newspaper waste being collected was gradually diminishing. One of those days when he was collecting newspapers, a lady refused to give him newspapers despite having a stash. The rejection definitely broke his heart but also led him to introspect of why it happened. He realized that a normal person’s perspective is like that of a barter system. “People value what they give and expect an incentive in return. It could be money or sometimes it could be any other valuable product in return.” Few kinds of research followed and it enabled Max to gauge the consumer psyche. He incorporated the waste management model, the barter model, and the e-commerce model to redesign his project. The modified style of working was named MaxXchange.

Max created a website and an app through which people can make a booking for giving away their recyclable waste. The collection team would get to the mentioned location and collect the waste. The giver earns X -points based on the weight of recyclable waste collected. Each X point is equivalent to one rupee. The user can now redeem these X points to purchase any upcycled products available at the MaxXchange online shop. In case the product costs more than the X points earned, one can pay the remaining money through online transactions. 

The collection of recyclables happens door to door as per bookings made by users. The waste is collected by the pick-up boys of the team and then sent to the warehouse. First level segregation of dry waste is done at the consumer- end. It involves separating different types of waste like plastics, papers, cardboards, etc. They are further segregated into different kinds based on their composition. It finally reaches the warehouse where a team coordinates the final level segregation depending upon the scope of upcycling for the grouped wastes. The segregated waste then goes to the factories for the upcycling process. The team has made a conscious decision of employing rural women, the specially-abled and the less privileged for this task. “The process of upcycling is relatively easier and does not need a lot of acquired skill. Hence, we thought it would be a great idea to employ the ones who get fewer chances.” Max says. The final products are made available for purchase on their online store which the users can buy using X-points. Any ordered product is dispatched within a week to the user.

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MaxXchange works under the aegis of Be Positive Foundation Pvt. Ltd, a not-for-profit organization run by his family. It is currently active in the cities of Gurgaon, Faridabad, and Delhi. It aims to expand to a major portion of North India in the coming years. At present, it owns 2 warehouses and one factory. The team has employed around 12 people in total till now. They process around 1 tonne of dry waste daily. The organization has recycled and repurposed 15 tonnes of plastic and 54 kgs of flowers respectively to date. MaxXchange is associated with more than 3600 customers and has been able to save 162 trees.

Vikramjeet Singh with the team of MaxXchange

Max credits his success to his ever-supportive team and family.”I’ve been lucky to get a very kind family and elders who constantly guide and help me with this. They backed my idea from the very beginning. Also, the team has very dedicated volunteers who spread the word about waste management to the people. They bridge the common public and us. Their support is invaluable” he adds.

All the while the MaxXchange grew bigger, Vikramjeet juggled his education with ease. Being a long time practitioner of meditation has helped him focus and memorize much better. His school has been an equally proactive participant for his ideas. The challenges he faces while shouldering the organization are new every day. Yet, he sports them with a smile “ The love and support of family, friends, and mentors have helped me win over the crisis. I’m sure it will always be so.”

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