Leveraging Growth for Waste Management

“Given the need for improved environmental infrastructure, waste management and recycling across emerging economies and given an enabling policy environment, the sector is poised for multifold growth in the coming years. As the largest and the most integrated player in this space, Ramky Enviro expects to be at the forefront of this transformation”, asserted Masood Mallik, Joint Managing Director, Ramky Enviro Engineers Limited in a conversation with Poulami Chakraborty of BW Businessworld. Excerpts below:

How has business been for Ramky Enviro in the past year of the Covid pandemic?

The last year, there is a renewed appreciation of climate change and other environmental sustainability issues and its inter-relationship with global pandemics and other impacts such as extreme weather events. As an environmental services and solutions company, what we do, has never been more relevant. 

As an essential service provider in the midst of a pandemic, we needed to ensure continuity of service. We also needed to adapt quickly to pandemic-related situations around employee health and safety and logistics disruptions. We were able to deploy equipment, workforce, and resources quickly to overcome the challenges that Covid19 presented. Our strong financial performance in a tough environment underlines not only our resilience as a company, but also the significant growth opportunity that lies ahead in our space. 

In the midst of Covid-19, we were able to construct and commission many significant projects including integrated waste management projects as well as recycling, resource recovery and circular economy facilities. Some of the new projects we inaugurated during the pandemic include: 

  • Hyderabad – a world-class Waste to Energy Plant, the first in southern India 
  • Hyderabad – a truly innovative and fully mechanised Waste Collection and Transport Project 
  • NOIDA & Hyderabad - C&D waste recycling and resource recovery plants
  • Chennai – Indian’s most technologically advanced Waste Collection & Transport project, powered by a fleet of advanced Electric Vehicles and an integrated IOT based monitoring and tracking system    
  • Raipur & Sagar - Integrated Waste Processing & Treatment Facilities

How has Ramky Enviro helped state governments it is associated with in the last two months?

We are a frontline organization in a state’s response to Covid19.  Our direct contribution in this space included biomedical waste management. We handled most of the Covid19 related waste generated in the country, including collection and treatment of biomedical and COVID waste from over 35,000 healthcare establishments located across the country. We ensured uninterrupted municipal waste collection, transport and treatment in all the cities in which we operate, despite significant challenges. We also continued to support industries, especially the essential ones like pharmaceuticals and the healthcare industry, in managing their waste and effluents. Plus, through CSR programs we supported all the states we operate in. We distributed PPEs and ran COVID awareness programs, we imported and donated the 

most advanced high-speed equipment for Covid19 tests, and we also extended proximate medical support in many communities where we operate.

We also shared technical inputs and expertise on policy matters related to Covid19 waste -- especially on possible responses when waste quantity goes up substantially. 

Presenting India's first general budget in the new decade, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had allotted Rs 12,294 crore for the Swachh Bharat program, a hike of 27.5%. What do you feel is the impact of this decision on the Waste Management Industry?

The Swachh Bharat program was a game-changer for the waste management sector. The focus of the first program was to take the message of Swachhta to all the states, and there was a lot of emphasis on making India open defecation free (ODF) and on primary collection of waste; I think the program achieved its goals and has been remarkably successful. In Swachh Bharat 2, the focus shifts to the better, more comprehensive technology-based collection and management of waste. There is an enhanced focus on the processing of waste, resource recovery, and recycling. This policy and the vision and mission of Ramky Enviro are aligned – it actually aids our journey from a waste management company to a resource management and recycling company. The enhanced budget allocation will help broad deployment of scientific waste management in the country and being the largest player in this space, we hope to be a key stakeholder in realising this vision of the Government. 

What’s Ramky Enviro’s commitment towards Swachh Bharat Mission?

Our corporate vision aligns with it and the direction that the Swachh Bharat mission has provided. We are continuously developing newer and better technologies and approaches in our catchments and communities on how waste is collected and managed and how we handle and treat that waste. A key area of focus is on the decentralized and fully mechanized secondary collection and transport points or the SCTP concept that we implementing in major urban centres including Hyderabad and Delhi; we will be taking this concept nationwide. We think it will completely revolutionize how waste is collected , compacted and transported in a closed, automated loop, with absolutely no manual handling or double handling. Another focus area is to take the green energy from waste-related experiences and successes we have in Delhi and Hyderabad to many other cities across India.       

The Finance Minister emphasized creating Open Defecation Free India in the current ongoing Financial Year. What are your views?

There are two ways in which we are supporting the ODF campaign: Firstly in all the urban local bodies and corporations where we are currently operating, our waste collecting systems work in conjunction with the ODF campaigns running there. Secondly our awareness campaigns are rolled out in conjunction with the ODF campaigns. As a service provider, we are also working with corporations in making their ODF campaigns more efficient and successful. While we do not work directly on the ODF space, we see ourselves as a complimentary service.

As many cities have been proactive in making carbon and plastic credit systems a part of their processes. Do you think waste can also develop such models? 

Carbon and Plastics are an inherent part of the entire Waste management footprint. We are already the largest plastic recycler in the country, and we are also the largest provider of EPR (Extended producer responsibility) services for companies generating plastic waste as part of their packaging, especially the FMCG companies. 

In that way, we are directly involved in the plastic credit program that exists in India. Focus on Plastic Credit program will only grow, and we are already the largest in the space, and as this becomes more and more mainstream and as more companies come and become part of the EPR program. 

We feel we have a huge role in removing plastic from the environment and ensuring that all plastic packaging, especially post-consumer and single-use plastic, is managed responsibly. We are a very close partner to the Indian manufacturing industry and especially the FMCG industry in enabling that.

On the carbon side, we have taken up many initiatives to ensure that we move towards a negative carbon footprint – these include electric vehicle fleets to substitute diesel use and converting diesel vehicles to alternate green fuels such as natural gas. We are upgrading our industrial waste incinerators to run on natural gas. In addition to our Green Energy from Waste facilities, which are in fact significant carbon sinks, we are also installing solar power generation facilities at all our locations in India and internationally. 

We also have a number of other initiatives focused on energy efficiency (such as - low temperature treatment of effluents using MVR technology), green energy (such as - capturing and converting landfill gas to green auto fuel through our CBG plant in Hyderabad) and a number of other innovative waste recycling initiatives (such as – recycling of ash to make eco-friendly paver blocks and tiles).

We try and account for all the carbon emission that we avoid through our operations and ensure that the avoided emissions are much higher than the carbon footprint of our operations. We have set the sustainability performance bar fairly high for ourselves – as a mainstream environmental company, we see this as a very key element of our purpose.  

What is your future roadmap going forward?

I think we are on the journey here -- from a progressive Asian waste management company to a leading global resource management & circular economy player. We will maintain our focus on emerging economies and continue to build scale in the entire waste and circular economy ecosystem - collection, transport, treatment, recycling and resource recovery. We will also continue to offer customized solutions and common environmental infrastructure for industrial estates, commercial establishments and healthcare facilities. Our focus is to continue delivering environmental solutions at scale, that are innovative, cost-effective and with deep technology integration and enablement. We will continues to invest along each of these dimensions.