Don't underestimate your kitchen waste - with Rahul Khera, founder, Balancing Bits

Don't underestimate your kitchen waste - with Rahul Khera, founder, Balancing Bits

We learn from Rahul Khera, the story of Balancing Bits and how they are trying to tackle wet waste recycling
Can your kitchen waste provide energy security to the country? Featuring Rahul Khera, founder Balancing Bits Reading Don't underestimate your kitchen waste - with Rahul Khera, founder, Balancing Bits 31 minutes Next the 5 best artisanal soaps

The Green Shoots team dives into the management of wet waste. The fruit peels and the food leftovers that we throw away are potentially massive sources of energy and can enrich our soil too!
Learn how Rahul Khera, through his brainchild Balancing Bits is solving the large problem of wet waste recycling. This episode is the first in a  2 part series and focuses solely on the challenges, opportunities, and the surprisingly positive by-products of wet waste.
What will you learn in this episode?
- How is waste from an Indian household different from any other waste in the world?
- How do you identify wet waste from dry waste?
- Challenges with wet waste recycling
- The story of Balancing Bits & its founder, Rahul Khera
- and a lot more..
with Tania Saha and Kinshuk Mishra

For any questions or feedback, reach out to us at

Please listen to us, share your thoughts and don't forget to follow us on spotifyapple or google podcast


Kinshuk  0:03  

How're you guys doing today? Welcome to another episode of the greenshoots, - the sustainability podcast. We demystify sustainability one topic at a time. Today, we're going to talk about wet waste. what is wet waste? What are the challenges with wet waste recycling and processing?


What are the end products in wet waste recycling? we'll get to all of that very soon. But as a precursor to this episode, I would like to draw your attention to what we learned from from Ritvik Rao, Richa Malik and Sonika Bhasin, and they all said that this segregation is  one thing that we all can do as aware citizens. Waste segregation is a big problem in our country. Unsegregated waste creates a lot of pressure on the rest of the value chain to handle different kinds of waste and if there is one thing that you want to take up for your environment, planet, country segregate your waste. There are many organizations who have started recycling, dry waste which is the plastic or glass or metal. Wet waste is slightly tricky in the sense that it degrades very fast. Composting is a great way to reduce wet waste and you would have seen videos of Vani Murthy and Sonika Bhasin. However, everyone does not compost. Residential societies become an excellent unit for wet waste recyclingbecause you get a large volume of waste, you can build a business model around it. Also it is very close to your house and you have to act on it. Better the solution to your house, the better it is. Not just dry waste, you have to take care of the wet waste too.


Our guests for the day - Rahul Khera believes that balancing is needed but it doesn't come on its own. You have to work for it. He had a stellar corporate career, which he gave up because he realized that there is a large problem of wet waste management which no one was solving, and mostly was greenwashed. I'm joined today in this conversation with my partner in crime, Tamia. Let's learn more about how Rahul is solving the wet waste problem in Delhi and Gurgaon and what can be done. So welcome to the podcast. It's great to have you here. You're doing some fantastic work in gurgaon and Delhi area and we would like to know more about it. So we're delighted to have you here.


Rahul  2:04  

Thank you. First of all I would like to thank you for running the sustainability podcast greenshoots. That helps take the sustainability message forward to a wider audience. And thank you for having me here to have this discussion and express my view on how the waste management problem is something that we need to tackle in India and what are the opportunities that we see in this space? Thank you so much.


Kinshuk  3:21  

So first of all, we wanted to understand that you are in the sustainability space. Sustainability has many facets, what is your personal idea of sustainability?


Rahul  3:32  

Right, so Kinshuk see everyone has a different understanding of sustainability and everyone is at a different level in their journey of sustainability. When when we talk about sustainability, generally we think about that, how to mindfully consume resources so that we would like or work for our future generation. I think for me, sustainability is about inclusion. It is not only about the future generation of ours, of humankind, it is about the inclusion of all the living beings. I think when we talk about the approach of just conserving resources from perspective of future generation, we are still talking about the human centric approach. So for me, sustainability is something that enhances and enriches all life forms on planet and that that is the approach that we have to thinking. Because if tomorrow let's say if it is all about conserving things for future generation and thinking about the future generation through human centering approach, tomorrow, if the situation comes then we will just pack up our bags and leave for some other planet which we are already trying to, leaving this planet for other species in a very bad shape. So that is not what sustainability means. I think sustainability has to the inclusion of all living beings so that we enriched and enhanced every ones life


Kinshuk  4:53  

That's a That's a great answer. And in our conversations with many people we have felt that the human ego you know that they're the most superior beings on the planet I think that leads to a lot of ills and even sustainability, Someone was saying that, you know, it's coming right now from a selfish agenda. But it's good. I mean, it's getting the conversation started and more people are worried because you know, it is impacting the human health and human life and you know, we're reading so much about microplastics and everything, but the larger agenda has to be the protection of the species of the planet, because we have ruined it for them as well. 


So now we are developing and hence the resources are always limited for us, which part of the sustainability in your opinion is the most important to India? Where should a country like India put its money? In your opinion, I'm sure that you know, there will be varying points of views on this. But where do you stand on this?


Rahul  5:59  

Right, as you rightly said, that India is, is a growing country, right. I mean, the biggest challenge that India is going to face in terms of sustainability is that how to manage or maintain that balance of development and ecological sustainability? India has to address huge socio political challenges and that. The way India has made its mark on the world map post-independence. And we are one of the most sought after countries in the world. What we have to decide is that what is the path forward from here, as a nation, it is very difficult that after looking at all these opportunities in front of us, it is very difficult to deny these opportunities and just choose sustainability. So, it is it is going to be a big social political decision. of the current government and the future government that how does India wants to position itself in this space? I mean, we have to understand that we're one of the world's largest population and the population density so high, we will be requiring more food for our people. Better Energy security, better food security, our cities will expand. So all this will come at an expense of our natural resources forest, mountainds and whatnot. So this is a very difficult decision that is going to be there for a country like India and picture. But this was this was a broader discussion, but in terms of a one specific problem that I think that India need to really focus upon is its waste management. The reason is that we are really really lagging behind on waste management. If we compare ourselves to other countries the population is so high that even if the Capita waste generation is less, the number of people is so high that you will soon outnumber other countries as the largest waste generation generating nation in the world. So it is very important not just from perspective of maintaining hygiene and having better, Clean Cities. That we start being more focused with waste management, but also from a perspective of better public health. Also from a perspective of securing a better energy plan, better agriculture plan, because once we start managing our waste properly, it leads to many other things. It will it will lead to generation with energy from different segments of waste. It will lead to better organic farming and whatnot. So I think waste management is something that India should really focus upon in order to place itself on the world map.


Kinshuk  8:40  

That's a very valid point because we had Ritvik Rao on the podcast. He's also in the waste management space, a few episodes back and we were doing some maths together and we realized that we are able to handle waste, we will be able to add around 1% extra to the GDP of the country, which is a very big number.


Rahul  9:00  

I agree. I agree. I think there's future opportunities and waste management as I was saying that it can also add to our energy security. There are too many technologies, which are sustainable technologies using which we can actually process our waste and produce something useful for the country. So I think that is that is very rightly said correctly, that waste management processes, huge opportunities in India to really help us to place ourselves better in the world.


Tania  9:32  

That's very interesting. And we'll come back to that point further down our conversation. But jumping to balancing bits we are very interested in knowing the story behind how you started balancing bits. Will you tell us something about that?


Rahul  9:50  

it started around four years, but before that I was working with corporate. I was working for 11 years. And one of the reasons we started balancing bits was that by end of the day, I could not get answers to the question that what am I contributing to tcompany object and the team objectives but what are the larger picture that I was contributing? So that was the primary question that always bothered me and I always had this point towards working in the environmental and social field since childhood. So all these factors made me to take a decision in 2018 to leave my job and start balancing bit, but a lot happened before that while I was having all these questions triggering in my mind, that how can I contribute better? How can I directly measure the impact that I'm creating in the world that I'm living in? It started with actually a cup of tea that I was having in my balcony in the morning and I saw that the garbage collector who used to collect garbage on daily basis from my household and I never noticed him. That was the day when I noticed that he just took that garbage bag from my house and put it in his cart. And he ripped open the garbage bag and started pulling some stuff out of it. And that really made me uncomfortable that why would anyone want to do that? And this was the time when I was not even segregating my waste. And I had a small kid at home. So I knew that there were diapers in that and whatnot. So it made me really uncomfortable and I wen down and talked to this guy that what exactly are you doing? Then he explained to me the entire cycle of waste or the business of waste? He said - So we do not charge any service fees from you. How do you think that we get our money from. We extract the recyclables from the household waste and we earn a living for ourselves., and that really moved me that a person has to really go through all the waste to generate his livelihood. So that intrigued me more I asked him to take me to his place where they do the segregation. The next day we went to his workplace and the conditions were horrendous. I mean, they were unimaginable conditions for any anyone to work. There was very bad stench. there were flies all over. Their were little kids whose mothers were segregating the waste which was generating from our household. So this really moved me and made me think that what can be done in order to make life for these people, the waste collectors better and along with that, also create the business model out of this resource that gets generated in a huge number of our cities or houses. Then the very next day I called him again and then we had few white board discussion that okay, what all is segregated in which all categories, what all is sold what all is disposed. After having multiple rounds of discussion with this garbage collector of mine, I identified that there is a huge gap that needs to be filled. At the initial stage we thought that we will just be working in that dry waste, that is the biggest problem. Plastic is the biggest problem. But as we went deeper, as we talked to more and more people, we realized that not just the dry waste, wet waste was actually causing problems, because wet waste is something that no one is interested in. Right and you cannot just sell your vegetable peels to someone. no one's interested to buy. There is no value associated with wet waste. There has to be some processing done at the source so that all that wet waste does not reach these waste workers colonies or slums. And that will improve working conditions, their source of income because once wet waste is removed from the source, it will not further reduce the quality of the dry waste. So that wasy we decided that we want to focus working on the wet waste portion of the of thewaste that gets generated from the househould. So balancing Bits, if I want to explain in simple terms what we do now is that we work with bulk waste generator. The generator could be any society, any mall, any restaurant, anyone who's generating more than 50-100 kg of kitchen waste on daily basis. So what we do is that we set up compost plants and biogas plants for them so that their waste gets processed as near to the source of generation as possible. And all that waste does not go to these waste workers colonies or municipal channel or to the landfill where they because a lot of social and environmental problems.


Kinshuk  14:47  

I completely understand what you're saying, because when I did my waste audit in the house, I realized that a large part of my waste is wet waste, but if you don't notice it, you know it kind of keeps your mind because you're acting on wet waste immediately. What I mean is that a plastic bottle leftover is a plastic bottle leftover you keep seeing it, but a vegetable peel, you accidentally immediately throw it in the garbage bag without even thinking much about it. I realized that half of my household waste was wet waste. Is that the standard number? what is the waste generated, in general you know this generated ratio of any household or a housing society.


Rahul  15:29  

So your observation is very correct. India is a country of fresh cooking, right we bring the freah vegetables and prepare fresh food unlike Western countries relying more on packaged food. So in India, if we go by the numbers, then around 55 to 60% of the waste that gets generated in our city or municipal cooperation on in a household is the kitchen waste or which is known as the wet waste. And this is the waste which every individual or every society has the capacity to handle it on its own level. You do not require a huge plastic recycling factory right, does not require a very technically complex solution to do that. So the way we could contribute to the major portion of the waste that gets generated from Indian households and Indian cities and the focus should be to process it as near to the source as possible and generate something useful from it like compost which enriches the soil, or maybe biogas which acts as the ultimate fuel in our kitchens.


Kinshuk  16:42  

Understood. That's a very, very quiet I think the second thing that you spoke about right, acting on wet waste also improves the dry waste. I think that's also a very interesting point because a lot of the dry waste recycling is not happening because it's also getting corrupted by all the wet waste that is going along with it. So while you're acting on wet waste, you're actually improving the quality of the dry waste for everyone to process it better as well.


Rahul  17:11  

Absolutely. We look at some figures, the projects that we are working when we talk to the dry waste vendors of those societies where we are composting the waste for the society on source. We get a feedback that their income has increased by 10 to 15%. Because the quality of the dry waste that they are receiving has improved a lot. The transportation cost of waste has got reduced, and their living conditions because the wet waste is the one which causes all the issues of stench, flies and whatnot. So once the wet waste is removed, it increases the income as well as improves the living conditions. So this reflects throughout the industry. We talked about the recycler the quality of dry waste a rag picker is picking up is eventually going to the recycler. So this value of 10-15% percolates further down to the value chain.


Kinshuk  18:16  

This is a knowledge podcast where we want people to know the fundamentals and we assume that many people are learning about some of these things for the first time here. So in in your definition, while we have spoken about vegetable peels, etc. What else constitutes wet waste?


Rahul  18:38  

simplest definition to it could be that anything that could be digested by a living being, not necessarily humans, anything that could be digested by a living being will constitute as wet waste so whether it is the fruit and the vegetable peels, whether it is bones that are coming out of your non veg food, the egg shells, anything that can be consumed and digested by any other living beings will form wet waste


Kinshuk  19:12  

That's actually a very interesting definition. Which means that egg shells bones, and what about things that contain, let's say, oil, for example, like if I got a very oily food from a restaurant and now there is some leftover, will that also fall in the wet waste category?


Rahul  19:34  

Yes, That will. So we talk about the waste that generally gets generated from a restaurant or a hotel. So it will be of course the waste that gets generated during the preparation of the food., leftover from the plates is considered to be directories. And also the excess food that gets thrown in these hotel restaurant or even in the houses that gets discarded, should go into the wet waste bin


Kinshuk  20:02  

And then it's very important that people act on the wet waste the moment it gets generated, right? I mean, I'm assuming that the potential for it to start going bad is like really fast. So how much time should people wair before they act on their wet waste


Rahul  20:20  

Now it depends upon what is the source of generation and what is the mechanism of disposal .Actually irrespective of whatever the disposal mechanism is, no one wants to keep the wet waste for more than 8-10 hours in their home because it starts smelling right. So even if you're doing home composting within a duration of eight to 10 hours of the generation of the waste you put it in your own composting bin. If it is a community composting setup, which is there in your society or your colony, then the waste collector will collect it within eight to 10 hours and it gets processed. Similarly for a bulk regenerator like a restaurant or hotel. We also don't keep waste in the kitchen for a very long duration. So I think within eight to 10 hours is what everyone prefers that they should get processed or picked up for the compost or whatever is happening with it within 8-10 hours.


Kinshuk  21:16  

And thanks for clarifying


Tania  21:19  

Does the delay in sending it for processing impact the quality in any way?


Rahul  21:27  

It does not impact the quality of the end product. So when I say it could be compost or it could be biogas in case of a biogas system, but it does impact the overall processing experience because when the waste is being taken from your house, and there will be someone who will be doing a secondary level of segregation just to ensure that there are no plastic paper glass pieces into the waste. So that when it goes to the composting biogas process, it does not harm the systems which are in place. So it becomes a really bad experience for anyone who's processing old stale waste. Of course, all the output in terms of the compost quality or the biogas quality will not be impacted , but the overall processing experience for the people who are doing it is very bad. So it is preferred that as early as possible, the wet waste should be sent to the processing network, whatever is available.


Tania  22:25  

Actually, you know, when you're talking about doing this and this this you're doing as a profession, we were speaking to people who do this as personal interest - sustainability or home composting. I think mindfulness has been a common thread for all of you for everybody practicing any aspect of sustainability, thinking about what waste I am generating, where it is going and who's having to handle the process or the waste that I'm generating. That's in common factor for everyone that speaking with. Coming to the next question, you provide composting solutions and horticulture waste processing? Can you explain what each one of them is? And how easy has it been for you to convince people to adopt these solutions


Rahul  23:11  

Although these are two different services that we use on our website as composting solutions or horticulture waste processing, but if look them in totality, horticulture waste is also organic fraction of this as I told you that anything which can be consumed and digested by any living being right so, it is also something that can be consumed by the cattles. So the process through which horticulture is taken care is also through composting. So whether it is the wet waste, the kitchen waste or the horticulture, the solution we will process is composting only. Now, when we talk about composting See, eventually everything begins in nature, right you leave an apple on a table. It will eventually decay. What composting does is that it accelerates that process, accelerates that process in a controlled environment. So that organic matter available. can be converted into fertilizer, which can enrich the soil and plants that is what the process of composting is. This organic material could be food scrap. It could be the horticulture waste - leaves and branches, whatever is being generated out of the horticultural practices. Now talking about that, how easy to convince people to adopt the solution. A lot of it depends upon what are the laws of the land to be very honest, because awareness is a slow poison right and you can work and you should be working on spreading your message like you people are doing through this podcast. But awareness only reaches to people who really are receptive to those kinds of messages. So, it is important to have certain law in the city in cooperation in the country, which mandates adoption of these solutions by the waste generators. So if there is a bit of push from the government, if there is a little bit of push from the local administration, then the solutions are the there. People are good in general- they want  good things for themselves, the future generation, environment. It just that it does not have to be too complicated and too time consuming. So we are able to offer them a solution which does not take a lot of time and resources from them and serve the purpose in a more sustainable way. I think people can adjust with a little bit of awareness and a little bit of hand holding and a little bit of a stick and carrot approach is required for people to adopt all these practices.


Tania  25:53  

Since we are already talking about policies, right, in your opinion, currently is India's based management strategy and implementation aligned with the idea of environmental sustainability? I know a lot of it differs at state level but at the national level or even even your states that are doing very well compared to others. How high or low would you score it and which is one state that you think is doing much better than the others


Rahul  26:21  

In India, see the turning point in terms of waste management India was in 2016 when our solid waste management rules were revised after almost two decades, and the solid waste management 2016 that we have in place. It's a wonderful framework. In terms of framework, I think we are comparable to any country in the world. So if we just start following the SWM rules 2016, start implementing it, I think, we will soon reach to a very high standards of waste management in a very sustainable manner. Having said that, the rules are there. The framework is wonderful, but we are still lagging a lot on implementation since 2016. It has already been, what, six years now. And as a country we are not started collecting 100% of our waste, leave alone the processing part. We are collecting only 80% of our waste, rest is still just getting dumped around the world. So there's a long way to go. Having said that, in terms of the implementation strategy of the government, it's a mixed bag of things. So there are some very progressive examples that you get to see one of them I would like to specifically mention is Indore, and not just because of all the media gimmick that has been created around indore I happen to visit indore around three weeks back and I specifically went to see the recent development that they have done in the waste management program, which is they have setup Asia's biggest municipal solid waste biogas plant in Indore, which can take up to 500 tonne per day of organic waste or the kitchen waste. And this plant is going to generate alternate energy sources right it is going to generate bio CNG using which the city buses are going to run. imagine a technology or solution which is sustainable in nature is providing that kind of benefit. That it is able to process the entire quantum of wet waste of a city and in turn it is not just processing it in an unsafe manner. It is processing it in a very sustainable manner and also reducing the carbon footprint which might have gotten a generated through the oil and petroleum which was used to run the city buses. It is offsetting all that carbon footprint. So these kinds of solutions are also here in India, which really makes me proud, but these are very rare. And this is just one example that we can quote. On the contrary, the look into government strategy, there has been a recent push on waste to energy plant. Now waste to energy in itself is a very confusing term because under Waste to Energy, the biogas plant which is setup in indore that I just mentioned about it also falls in the category of waste to energy because it is making waste as input and generating energy as output. But that is a very sustainable form of waste. On the contrary, there is another form of waste to energy plant which is incineration based. When I say incineration based, these plants basically burn the waste to produce energy. Just like the thermal power plant it burns waste


Steam rotates a turbine and produces energy. Similarly, instead of coal these plants are set up to burn the waste which is getting generated from municipal cooperation and produce energy. This form of waste to energy is not a sustainable form, because we are burning the resources- we are burning the papers which are getting generated as waste, we are burning the plastic, we were burning the other material which can be recovered and recycled. So recently there has been a real push from the government and there is a recommendation from the Niti Aayog to set up these kinds of plan. Unfortunately, there are a few already running in Delhi and they have proved to be non viable, financially and operationally. Out of 7 or 8 waste to energy plans which were set up in India, more than 80% of them are dysfunctional because of operational and economical reason. So we have to look closely here, the only solutions that we just go to the western countries and get impressed with. Are they good for our socio economic background or not, as we discussed in this podcast that India is a country of fresh cooking. So 50 to 60% of our waste is wet waste compared to 30-35% of the waste that gets generated in the Western countries. Because they rely more on packaged foods. So these waste to energy could be still a good solution for a country like that. But for a country like India, where people are not segregating waste, most of the waste has high moisture content. So how do we expect all this waste with high moisture content to be incinerated and produce energy? So these are few of the flaws that I see in the strategy implementation. But all in all, if we talk about the solid waste management rules 2016, I think they're wonderfully framed that we should start following them


Kinshuk  31:44  



I Loved the answer because it clarifies some of the big doubts I had in my mind. Earlier I had found out that burning the waste to produce energy was considered one of the recycling methodologies ironically and you have validated the concern I had. That is a very big point that waste to energy depending on how you are using it and what you are putting in as a raw material can be sustainable or unsustainable. Your comment on what India is doing and some of the examples like Indore and again that is osmething to be proud of. The more there is public push and awareness to so more in the space,it will drive other cities to take action.

Our conversation with Rahul was so enriching that We have divided this podcast into 2 episodes. In the next episode, we will learn about what exactly happens at the composting or biogas plant. Be there to understand the chemistry of it and believe me Rahul explains it better than anyone I have heard.

Residential societies in Gurgaon or Delhi or restaurant owners, reach out to Balancing Bits and figure out how you can compost your waste. That is the biggest service you can give towards environment.

If you have any feedback or suggestion on the next guest you want to hear, do reach out to us at



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Author - team awenest

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