Introducing Green Worms

July 10, 2024

The past few years of climate startup funding in India have been dominated by electric mobility and infrastructure enabling electric mobility. This is why we made a conscious decision early last year to also enable as much support as possible for teams working on solutions in sectors like waste management which might not attract as much venture capital as needed.

One such startup we are now proud to partner with is Green Worms. Jabir Karat, the founder, started Green Worms in 2014, wanting to tackle the waste crisis in India and improve the poor working conditions of waste workers. He started as a one-person company with a small workforce managing 300 kgs of Waste per day. By 2018, they had evolved into a team that was also thinking about uplifting Women to earn beyond minimum wages by enabling entrepreneurship. Today Green Worms handles ~180 tons of waste per day.

Leveraging the Kudambshree policy (Kerala policy for Self-help Groups), they started collaborations with village level administrations and engaged local women through their Self-help Groups (SHGs) to collect the waste, while Green Worms ensured they got minimum guaranteed income. They have also established a Social Impact Team and on-the-ground data collection procedures that include detailed surveys to understand the needs and profiles of the waste workers they work with. The aim is to improve the quality of the engagement for the women employed with a particular focus on their financial well-being through stable and increased wages.

While they started operations in Kerala, over time they have also started operating in the Lakshadweep Islands and the Andaman Islands. They have also become a certified Ocean-bound plastics collector, which only 9 other companies have in India.

In their mission to enable livelihoods in the waste collection space, they also believe in the need for a Circular economy transition by which brands and producers recycle plastic instead of using virgin materials. This is why today, they also work with brands and offer circular economy solutions and Extended Producer responsibility compliance for various FMCG brands through plastic credits.

It is extremely rare to find startups that are thinking about problems like livelihoods and waste management deeply, and also be profitable as a business. The financial viability of the business will only ensure more people benefit in the waste management space.

We are proud to support Green Worms in this journey. Here is a note from Jabir Karat, Founder of Green Worms.

Green Worms started in a small village named Poonor, located in the foothills of the Western Ghats of Kerala, India. Founded in 2014, Green Worms aimed to fix waste management by creating systemic change through dignified jobs for those involved in the waste management value chain.

Scaled from one village to over 100+ villages

Green Worms has developed a scalable model for providing waste management services to local governments across more than 100 villages. This model emphasizes workforce formalization through capacity building, safety training, and assured income. Green Worms ensures collected waste is effectively recycled and scientifically disposed.

A 600-fold increase in capacity

Green Worms began by managing a mere 300 kgs of waste per day. Through remarkable growth, Green Worms daily processing capacity has soared to a staggering 180 tonnes (TPD) of waste.

Pioneering last-mile operations

Green Worms works majorly in rural areas and remote areas in Kerala, Lakshadweep Islands UT, Andaman Islands UT and Tamil Nadu. These locations have very limited connectivity, infrastructure and resources and are mostly eco-sensitive zones. Green Worms were recently recognised by UNESCO under their flagship Initiative, Green Citizens.

Preventing ocean plastic

Green Worms goes beyond waste management, actively preventing plastic from entering our oceans. Through extensive operations in coastal areas, Green Worms keep plastic “in the economy and out of the ocean.” Their unique status as a certified Ocean-bound Plastic Collector, a certification held by only a few companies globally, solidifies their position at the forefront of this fight.

Multiple revenue streams

Green Worms has diversified revenue streams which include Waste Collection & Disposal Services, EPR Compliance Fulfillment and Sale of Processing & Recycled materials. Diversified revenue streams reduce business risks and good cash flows.

Social business

Green Worms goes beyond a sustainable business model. Green Worms creates social impact by creating dignified jobs and fostering “Waste-preneurs,” ensuring safety, dignity, and fair wages. So far, Green Worms has created 650 direct dignified jobs and also nurtured 2,800 Waste-preneurs. The majority of these jobholders are women from rural areas, and 72% of direct employees have seen an increase in their income.

A circularity transition company

Green Worms offers Circular Economy Solutions for brands that help meet regular compliances like EPR, the use of recycled materials instead of virgin materials. These offerings are very crucial for Brand & Corporates to make a transition to Circularity while ensuring these activities are backed with Traceability and Operational Compliances.

Largest recycling facility in Kerala

Green Worms previously sorted and sold recyclable materials to other recyclers. Now, Green Worms has taken a significant step towards self-sufficiency by establishing its own recycling facility. This facility can process both soft plastics and rigid plastics like HDPE and PP, adhering to the stringent Global Recycling Standard (GRS). This expansion allows brands to ethically source recycled materials directly from Green Worms. With this direct connection, brands gain 100% control over the entire value chain.

Social procurement as key strategy

Green Worms has been promoting Social Procurement as a new way of procurement for brands & corporates. Social procurement empowers brands to source products and services ethically. It prioritizes dignity, fair wages, and worker safety. This approach creates a positive ripple effect, generating broader social, economic, and environmental benefits. Green Worms was recognized as One of the Five social businesses scaling impact through Corporate Social Procurement Partnerships by Yunus Social Business.

Patient capital for Indian fintech, health, and climate startups.

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