Recykal’s Digital DRS wins Digital India Award, reduces plastic littering at Kedarnath and brings behavioral change

District Administration of Uttarakhand and Recykal implement India’s first Digital Deposit Refund System
Recykal Team with SDM Ukhimath at Recykal Deposit Refund Centre
Recykal Team with SDM Ukhimath at Recykal Deposit Refund CentrePhoto - Recykal
  • Over 1.63 lakh bottles were stopped from entering Himalayan trenches and water bodies

  • The initiative generated new jobs and an additional income source for the local community

  • Local businesses, hotel associations, and trade unions are contributors to success

To manage the problem of plastic littering on the Kedarnath pilgrimage trek, the Rudraprayag District Administration in Uttarakhand and Recykal implemented a unique Digital Deposit Refund System to nudge behavioral change among citizens. The success of the initiative led to it securing the Digital India Awards 2022 under the category of ‘Digital Initiatives in collaboration with Startups’. The president of India, Droupadi Murmu, will be bestowing the award on the 7th of January 2023 in New Delhi.

Shopkeeper selling QR-coded items
Shopkeeper selling QR-coded itemsPhoto - Recykal
Photo - Recykal

“Recykal is happy the Digital Deposit Refund System has received recognition at a national level, and we thank the Uttarakhand government, local unions, associations, and citizens for their support. Together, we aim to not only bring traceability within the waste value chain but also nudge behavioral change, and in the process incentivize the local Safai Mitra community through additional income sources,” says Abhay Deshpande, chief executive and founder, Recykal.

Photo - Recykal

Recykal’s Digital DRS

  • Pay a 10 rupee deposit on the purchase of plastic-packaged items

  • Anyone who returns the packaging gets a refund of Rs.10

  • Unique Packaging, is identified for a refund with Recykal’s Digital Technology

Under the Digital Deposit Refund System, tourists/citizens paid a deposit amount (Rs. 10) while purchasing products with plastic packaging, and received the refund via cash or UPI on responsibly returning the plastic bottle at one of the many Deposit Refund Centres set up by Recykal. While this nudged citizens/tourists to dispose of waste responsibly, it also allowed the local community of waste pickers an additional source of income as they retrieved littered QR-coded plastic items & earned a reward for their behavior.

With the help of the local district administration, Recykal worked with over 733 shops & strategically placed over 12 deposit refund centers to bring traceability to plastic material. Tech adoption was ensured through various awareness programs and aggressive educational marketing. Additionally, the local administration mandated the regions as ‘plastic litter-free zones’. Field teams, were also deployed to ensure adherence to rules and proper disposal of plastic material. (The positive response to the initiative in Kedarnath led to it being implemented in other regions of Uttarakhand, like Chopta & Tungnath.)

As a result of the Digital Deposit Refund System initiative, a total of 1.63 lakh plastic bottles were successfully stopped from entering Himalayan trenches and water bodies like the river Mandakini and Ganges. This is truly a testament to the power of collaboration that showcases the impact that entities can bring by joining hands to solve a problem.

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