The Chennai-based startup, Samudhyoga Waste Chakra, is changing the narrative around sustainable solutions with their affordable and energy-efficient waste management solutions.
The increasing use of plastic has cast a dark spell on humankind. Wherever we go, we find piles of plastic around us. They laugh at the likes of us who are busy churning out more plastic and deriving pleasure out of it. Reportedly, India generates over 3.3 million metric tonnes of plastic waste every year. The country is home to tonnes of single-use plastics, plastic packaging, and multi-layer packaging with no sustainable solution in sight. Most of this plastic lands up in landfills and open spaces, contributing to pollution. A Chennai-based startup, Samudhyoga Waste Chakra, is on a mission to use advanced technology for recycling plastic and produce a sustainable impact without compromising on resources.
A group of 5 researchers from IIT Madras began working on the dynamics of chemical recycling in India. In 2018, the team participated in Carbon Zero Challenge and went on to win it. During this period, they found that around 60 per cent of plastic in India is multi-layered plastic. It is not recycled mechanically. The team further dug deep to conclude that the current technologies employed for recycling were expensive, inefficient, and not eco-friendly. They had poor emission standards and inefficient operations. After the team got a seed fund of Rs 1 crore from Engineers India Limited in 2019, they started Samudhyoga Waste Chakra. The venture aims to change the narrative around sustainable solutions. With its unique technologies, Plastic Pyrolysis and Ecofert Unit, the clean technology company is focused on making the best out of solid and liquid waste.
The plastic pyrolysis plant converts non-recyclable plastic into oil that can be used for industrial purposes. It easily converts 1000 kg of plastics per day to produce 800 litres of oil in a decentralised fashion. This plant works on the chemical process of pyrolysis. It means breaking down long chains of carbon into smaller units. Pyrolysis is conducted at a temperature greater than 35 degrees celsius in the absence of air. This process results in vapours which are further processed to produce fuel oil. The oil can be used as furnace oil for the production of steam in boilers and generators. The completely indigenous system is cost-effective, low on energy consumption, and mobile. Keshav, Business Head of Samudhyoga Waste Chakra, shares, “We intend to save the Earth from tonnes of microplastics plaguing its surface.”
The second technology, the Ecofert Unit, processes the urine released in water to obtain water and ammonia. It is a modular toilet system that aims to reduce water footprint and produce green chemicals. Urine contains 96% water, while the rest is nutrients that could be utilised as fertilisers. Around 1000 litres of water produces 850 litres of water and 100 litres of ammonia. While the water is further used for flushing and gardening purposes, the ammonia could be sold in the market. With this, the Ecofert Unit helps in developing a sustainable sanitation system and complements the campaigns such as Swachh Bharat Mission. It builds a narrative that sanitation projects revolve around revenue generation rather than merely remain a financial liability. Keshav shares, “The first 500-litre unit is set up at IIT Madras. It generates 50 litres of ammonia every day.”
Both processes are completely safe and highly energy-efficient. The gas produced in both processes is passed through an advanced gas recovery system for the combustion that produces heat. This secondary heat is again fed into the system, and the cycle continues. This process ensures there is no emission of dioxins and furans. The primary challenge for the startup was to shift the narrative around sustainable technology solutions. General notion believes that they are expensive and inaccessible. “However, we are here to tell people that chemical recycling is a profitable and eco-friendly system,” Keshav adds.
The startup has applied for the patent and is looking forward to collaborating with industry manufactures for scaling up the production. They have already done 150 trials for the technologies at IIT Madras and received encouraging responses. The first full-fledged 250 kg pyrolysis plant is under production for the Madras Corporation. The startup plans to tie up with smart cities across India to change the way we look at sustainability.