Published: 11th June 2019
Kozhikode's Jabir Karat will take trash that no one else wants and recycle it. Here's why
Jabir Karat who runs Green Worms talks to us about waste segregation, waste management and the start-up's future plans. Some of those plans are pretty awesome and ahead of our time
Do you breathe a sigh of relief when you hear the waste collector ring your doorbell every morning? If the answer to that question is a yes, consider yourself among the luckiest lot, especially in a scenario where waste management has become an issue. That is one problem that Jabir Karat wishes to solve through his venture Green Worms.
Before we will tell you what happens at Green Worms’ outlets, allow us to narrate a story. A family in Kerala was entirely dependent on the Kudumbashree workers for waste disposal. Religiously, they collected plastic bags full of non-segregated waste from almost every house in that locality. But one day, the kudumbashree unit was shut down and the family was in trouble. For the first time in their lives, everyone there started separating biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. While the former was buried in the soil, bags filled with these negative value garbage were disposed on corners of far away streets from time to time. This is where Jabir and Green Worms play a key role.
Learn it: Jabir asks us to learn a way to manage and segregate food waste
Do it like them
So, here’s what they do. They gather garbage from homes, the kind of waste that even the scrap dealers refuse to collect, for a nominal fee. This includes used shampoo bottle, milk covers and toothpaste tubes. The garbage is taken to Green Worms’ unit, where it is segregated and recycled. “Almost 90 per cent of this waste is recyclable,” says Jabir. “The basic segregation can be easily done. In fact, a lot of people earn their livelihood through it,” he adds. The portion of the garbage that can’t be managed or recycled is sent to cement factories, where it is later converted to fuel.
Jabir’s team accepts expired food products from manufacturers and shred it to make manure. Also, they conduct zero waste events. “We have conducted around 120 zero waste events till now, which includes weddings, exhibitions and carnivals,” he says.
Most people do not want to come to this field because of the lack of dignity it offers. But I didn't mind taking it up for a cause, because I knew the impact it would make
Jabir Karat, Founder, Green Worms
Force behind it all
Now, let’s talk about Jabir. Hailing from a village in Kozhikode, he’s the first in his entire family to receive a college education. “Right after class XII, I won a scholarship to study in Delhi University. After completing my graduation and PG there, I won the Gandhi Fellowship, which led me to work in slums in Mumbai. At the end of it, I knew that I had to give it back to society,” says this 29-year-old. Realising the magnitude of India’s garbage problem, Jabir decided to do something about it. “The per capita waste production in India is increasing by 11 per cent every year. So, something has to be done in terms of waste management. It is also a futuristic profession,” says Jabir.
Gaining experience from the rag pickers in Coimbatore, Jabir, along with a friend, began the first unit of Green Worms in Kozhikode in 2014, where they started by managing around 200 kg of waste per day. But owing to money crunch, Jabir had to shut it down soon. He restarted it eight months later, but this time, the misfortune came in the form of a strike by the local residents. “They were scared that soon, their backyard would turn into a dump yard. But ours is a material collection unit. It was difficult to make everyone aware of that,” he says. But the third time was an absolute charm for Jabir. “I restarted it again in 2016 and it is running well since then. We have tied up with a lot of residents’ associations and commercial establishments. Also, these days, we manage around 25 tons of waste per day,” he says. They have also expanded their units to collecting garbage from households in Kochi too.
Three's charm: Jabir has been working in this field for three years now
Apart from managing waste, Jabir conducts awareness classes on waste management. And the start-up is also trying to serve one more purpose — making rag picking and waste management dignified jobs. “One major reason for me to delve into this sector was a desire to provide dignified employment opportunities to these labourers,” he signs off.