Turning animal carcasses from waste into a business
Lappeenranta University of Technology is researching, developing and introducing new, sustainable business models to recycle animal carcasses in India. Implemented in collaboration with business enterprises, the new business models will create jobs and improve local living conditions.
Animal carcasses are a significant global waste problem. In India, carcasses are currently utilised on a small scale as raw material for pharmaceutical products, but a majority of them lie unutilised in rural and urban areas.
"However, animal waste contains many useful components which through efficient recycling can be used as, for instance, fertilizer for croplands and raw material for renewable energy. Finland has unique technologies for this purpose and our aim is now to apply them in India," says Professor Pasi Syrjä from LUT.
LUT is involved in a project organisation consisting of Finnish and Indian technology enterprises. The partners are jointly developing animal waste processing units to be adapted and scaled to different circumstances. The primary product of the processing unit is raw material for fertilizer. During the process, the unit produces more energy than it consumes, and the wastewater generated will be purified for reuse. In this manner, the hazardous animal waste is handled according to circular economy principles and transformed into material of use to the surrounding community.
LUT's role in the project is to study how the new solution that applies circular economy models takes root and gains ground in new communities, affecting the society positively. In addition to a financial profit, sustainable business must yield positive societal and environmental impacts. According to Associate Professor Helena Sjögrén, the project takes advantage of LUT's expertise in modelling and measuring societal impacts.
"In the Indian society, people have very little trust in institutions. Consequently, we need to engage local people in the project from the very beginning to gain their trust. Many aspects of the societal structure need to be taken into account. For example, the position of Dalits and a culture revolving around family are key questions."
For Dalits, who fall outside of the caste system, animal carcasses are often the only source of income. Sjögren assures that their livelihood will be safe also in the future.
"We are sensitive to the special circumstances of the community and strive not to shake the societal structures. We will make sure not to jeopardise the income of Dalits. On the contrary, we will provide better conditions for them to earn it," explains Sjögren.
The project is part of the programme BEAM – Business with Impact funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation. The programme supports the development, piloting and demonstration of Finnish innovations that solve problems of the world's poorest population groups while creating international business opportunities for Finnish enterprises.
"The starting point for social entrepreneurship is a social problem that is addressed by means of business. This project strives to solve an important waste problem. The new waste treatment system boosts local entrepreneurship, which in turn improves the living conditions in the surrounding community. If the business takes off and starts to grow, it will be easy to add new functions to it," states Syrjä.
The project was launched on 1 January 2016 and will be concluded at the end of 2017.