Toter: India’s Digital Door-to-Door Recycling Service Turning Trash Into Cash

© Toter

In India, Toter is an app that wants to change the way individuals and businesses recycle and manage waste - adding a technological edge and a great deal of respect to an age-old and much-maligned industry.

Autor*in Tristan Rayner, 07.26.18

Translation Tristan Rayner:

In India, Toter is an app that wants to change the way individuals and businesses recycle and manage waste – adding a technological edge and a great deal of respect to an age-old and much-maligned industry.

Because much of India doesn’t have access to formal waste disposal systems, much of the country’s waste – thought to be a huge 62 million tons a year – ends up mixed up in landfill where it produces huge amounts of methane and pollutes the surrounding area. Recycling rubbish often ends up being the sole responsibility of so-called rag pickers or waste pickers – one of India’s poorest and most marginalised groups. Not paid by the state, rag pickers sustain themselves by collecting, sorting and separating waste and then selling it on. By doing so, they help reduce cities’ solid waste management costs, provide a recycling system where none would otherwise exist and reduce the amount of waste which ends up in landfills.

Waste Ventures India (WVI) is a social enterprise that wants to make waste management in India both more environmentally and financially sustainable – in part, by formalising the role of the waste picker and offering their services to customers via an app. Their mission is to connect people with garbage to people who want garbage, offering a door-to-door service waste pick-up service via an app they’ve called Toter.

How does the service work?

Sort of like an “uber for trash”, all users have to do is open the Toter app to book a time slot for their waste to be picked up. Once the time has been confirmed, a Toter representative will go to the location at the scheduled time, weigh the recyclable material using a digital scale and pay the client cash for their waste. The waste needs to be separated beforehand – into paper, plastics, metals, e-waste, glass etc – with clients facing a fee if their garbage isn’t organised, encouraging app-users to separate their waste into biodegradable and non-biodegradable bags before collection. In a next step, Waste Ventures India then buys the collected waste from the Toter agent, and takes it to its warehouse, where it is further sorted and separated before being baled into cubes that are sent to certified recyclers from India’s Pollution Control Board.

Toter claims to have diverted 4,000 tons of waste from Indian dumpsites since 2013, whilst providing higher incomes for thousands of waste pickers. That waste has been recycled into a range of products, with a focus on biodegradable materials to create compost. This is produced via an aerobic method, chosen purposely to reduce methane emissions. The company creates a “100 per cent organic compost” product, sold to farmers via the app and on Amazon in India, and is able to claim carbon credits for the methane reduction.

The company currently focuses on Hyderabad, where an estimated 4,000 metric tons of waste are produced every day (!) – the highest amount of waste per capita anywhere in India – and aims to expand to Bangalore and beyond.

This Small Japanese Town Could Soon Become a 100% Zero Waste Society

Kamikatsu, in the south of Japan, is set to be completely zero waste by 2020. How and why are they such pioneers when it comes to waste reduction? And could their approach work elsewhere?

Genecis: Giving Added Value to Food Waste, at No Extra Cost

A young team of Canadian ecopreneurs wants to tackle food waste by turning restaurant scraps into value-added products, starting with bioplastics.

Feeding India: Stopping Food Waste in One of the World’s Most Undernourished Countries

A young entrepreneur is seeking to eradicate hunger and food waste in India through a social organisation that rescues leftover food.

MIWA: A New Smart System To Stop Waste Before It Happens

MIWA is a new "precycling" system that combines digital technology with package-free produce in an attempt to cut waste down to zero.

SirPlus: Can a Supermarket and an App Help Eradicate Food Waste?

Fighting food waste one delivery at a time: that is the ambition of the SirPlus team. The trio is planning to open a food outlet selling only saved food, and their market will have an online shop with same day delivery in Berlin.