Karthik Manivasagam’s plan to transform Coimbatore into a cleaner and greener city needs your help

Two years ago, when he came back from the U.S., Karthik Manivasagam, 31, was appalled at plastic littering the roads in his hometown. Often, on weekends, he would head out with friends, gunny bags in tow, pick up the plastic and deposit it in Corporation bins. “But, I knew that it was not a permanent solution. We needed to make people stakeholders,” says the former finance professional who has started GreenBhoomi, a company that collects segregated garbage from homes and pays handsomely for it.

Karthik, who works out of Saibaba Colony, believes keeping a country clean has little to do with its development status.

“Even Cambodia and Vietnam are clean,” says the intrepid traveller who has backpacked to about 20 countries. The trigger for GreenBhoomi, however, was a trip to the Kumbhmela last year. “All I saw from the train were heaps of plastic by the tracks. It was a terrible sight.”

For long, he had wanted to turn an entrepreneur and was waiting for an idea that satisfied his soul. He started reading up on waste management. “I toyed with the idea of an NGO but decided I had to build a sustainable model that would survive.” Providing inspiration were some African countries that have monetised their natural resources while protecting them. “Poaching is down, and animal population is up. I believe that when you give every social issue a profitable solution, it solves itself.” Karthik found encouragement in Paperman and Kuppaithotti, two Chennai-based groups that have made a name in waste management.

GreenBhoomi, which went live on June 15, has a godown in Kavundampalayam, where it has so far collected about four-and-a-half tonnes of waste. “Most of it was segregated. It makes processing so much easier. When you mix waste, it cannot be effectively recycled. Plus, it poses a health hazard,” he says.

Dump from GreenBhoomi is processed thus. Karthik sells the segregated waste to companies that deal with specific waste. Quality plastic turns into plastic cakes that are recycled, while paper waste is sent to paper mills. “Recycled paper is in fashion,” he says.

The proliferation of plastic, says Karthik, has hit the dumpyards too. “Years ago, when the Corporation dumpyard was in Kavundampalayam, farmers would buy the compost for agriculture. Now, there’s so much of plastic in the compost, none wants it.”

For the past couple of months, the team has worked night and day to put the logistics into place. The company, he says, will break even once they achieve customer volume.

“That’s the long-term model. That way, we can dedicate a day to every locality. We want to grow slowly but steadily. The goal is to cover the entire Corporation limit,” he says.

Karthik’s ultimate target, though, is to get every Coimbatorean to segregate at source. “That’s five minutes a day towards your future.”

Factfile

Call GreenBhoomi and an operator will arrange to pick up the recyclable waste at your doorstep. The call centre works Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the pick-up service is available from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The company pays Rs. 15 for a kg of plastic bottles, Rs. 200 a kg for brass, Rs. 10 to Rs. 20 for a kg of e-waste and Rs. 9 for a kg of English newspapers. Contact them at 95662-13130, or visit www.greenbhoomi.com

Keywords: plasticlittering