The digital DRS initiative successfully demonstrated how technology can drive behavioral change among the visitors
Uttarakhand, 23 Nov 2023: Char Dham Yatra began on the auspicious occasion of Akshay Tritiya on 22 April this year. Pilgrims visit here in huge numbers and as a consequence, large quantities of plastic waste are littered. Recykal, a technology provider of sustainability and circularity solutions, has come forward to resolve this issue with an innovative initiative.
The initiative titled ‘Digital Deposit Refund System’ (Digital DRS), also envisaged in the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, aims to collect every single plastic container being sold and bring it back into the collection system to eliminate littering and pollution.
The digital DRS initiative was first implemented at Kedarnath. It successfully demonstrated how technology can drive behavioral change among the visitors. It received immense responses from the local citizens, retailers, and media as well as the district administration of Rudraprayag. Uttarakhand Govt. won the Digital India Award 2022 in collaboration with Recykal for this innovative technology solution. In digital DRS, water and cold-drink distributors are given unique serialized codes (USIC). As a mandate, these USI codes are further pasted on the packaging of bottles being sold. In a DRS system, consumers buy plastic bottles and deposit Rs 10 as a small amount upfront over the MRP, to be reimbursed to them when they bring an empty container to authorized collection points set up on the Yatra route.
This year the digital DRS has been expanded to other Dhams- Gangotri, Yamunotri & Kedarnath. The recovery efforts from these three Dhams have resulted in the retrieval more than 11.52 lakh bottles with a recovery rate of 72%, all of which have been sent for recycling. In the last week the number of collected bottles was 9.58 lakh with the recovery rate of 65% and it is increasing rapidly. This year’s collection surpasses last year’s numbers significantly, with over a 700% increase compared to the 1.63 lakh bottles collected from Kedarnath during the yatra season. As the yatra closes, the expected recovery rate is around 80%.
Displaying high appreciation for the initiative, District Magistrate of Rudraprayag, Shri. Mayur Dixit said “Pilgrims visit Shri Kedarnath Dham in large numbers. This results in the littering of empty bottles, packets etc. To resolve this issue, in collaboration with Recykal, we ran a pilot wherein pilgrims could purchase plastic water bottles with a certain extra charge which was refunded after the used bottle was returned. After the considerable success of this pilot, we decided to implement this throughout the entire yatra route, and people are responding positively towards the responsible disposal of plastic bottles.”
District Magistrate of Uttarkashi Shri Abhishek Ruhela said, “District Uttarkashi has implemented a Deposit Refund System during Char Dham yatra on the routes of Yamunotri and Gangotri. This system will help us in the sustainable management of plastic during the yatra. Initially, this initiative faced skepticism from stakeholders like shopkeepers, Distributors, and Hotels. However with consistent efforts of the administration and team Recykal, the project is gaining popularity and support from locals. This initiative was well received by Yatris and their contribution to keep the holy shrines free from plastic pollution. This system has set up a circular system of waste collection and processing. It is keeping our rivers and mountains free from plastic pollution.”
Abhay Deshpande, Founder and CEO of Recykal, said, “As we continue our commitment to sustainable waste management solutions and putting efforts for inducing behavioral change, Recykal is dedicated to expanding the digital Deposit Refund System (dDRS) initiative to further enhance the recovery and recycling efforts during the Char Dham Yatra. Our goal is to target 100% collection of plastic bottles, ensuring zero environmental impact and promoting sustainable tourism in the region. The success of the digital DRS in Kedarnath and its expansion to Gangotri, Yamunotri for the year 2023 has been truly remarkable, with a recovery rate of around 75% and support from natives, shopkeepers, distributors, and local administration. This collaboration with the Uttarakhand Government, aimed at halting plastic pollution was a very successful initiative that resulted in winning the Digital India Award 2022, and has been a key milestone in our journey. We remain focused on leveraging technological innovation and partnerships to further enhance our impact and contribute to a cleaner, greener future for the Char Dham Yatra and beyond.”