Ranjith Annepu, co-founder of be Waste Wise, wants to create a global conversation around waste management. The nonprofit organization aims to bring industry thought leaders together to form a global waste management community. It provides educational resources, access to experts and networking.
be Waste Wise also manages grants and provides consultancy services in knowledge transfer and training, communications and content marketing, networking and community building and conference support.
Annepu earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, and a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Columbia University, in New York. He worked at the Cason Family Foundation, where he focused on issues related to waste management in developing countries. As a consultant with the World Bank, he was able to dive deeper into researching and analyzing current practices.
He co-founded be Waste Wise with the goal of making research, best practices, and data more easily accessible to anyone who wants to improve waste management systems anywhere in the world.
Annepu was named as one of Waste360’s 40 Under 40 award recipients.
Waste360 talked to Annepu about be Waste Wise’s mission and how the organization can help improve public health and other vital community services.
Waste360: What is the mission of be Waste Wise?
Ranjith Annepu: Waste is a global challenge with local solutions. Billions of people need solutions to and through waste, and yet they lack access to relevant knowledge and best practices. be Waste Wise is a nonprofit organization addressing that need for knowledge dissemination in waste management by bringing the best minds in the world together to build a global waste management community. We provide educational resources, data to experts, and networking to build momentum around the challenge of global waste.
Waste360: Where does be Waste Wise serve?
Ranjith Annepu: The way we approach this is that we look at where there is the most need for waste management solutions. In developing countries, there is a need to protect public health and improve the quality of life by closing down sites, improving landfills or improving collections. We also think there’s a need for more waste prevention and recycling in developing countries. That’s where our focus is, and also on reducing toxins from our day-to-day lives.
When it comes to our target audience, we believe that change and leadership can come from any part of the society. No single community or no single profession has a monopoly on change and leadership. Whether you own or work for a big or small company or nonprofit, whether you are a government employee or part of the local community, if waste is a problem to you or you have other goals that could be achieved through waste such as improving public health or quality of life, or reducing costs, or engaging customers, or creating community solutions, we understand that you do not have a lot of time to make decisions. You have a need, and you have to make a quick decision. You don’t have time to go through a research report. That’s why we provide high quality knowledge in easily accessible formats.
Waste360: What are some examples of communities or stakeholders with which you have worked?
Ranjith Annepu: We have a new program called be Waste Wise Collective. We are bringing large research and academic organizations, and consulting organizations that have research arms, and we’re trying to provide their knowledge easily to the global community. We are looking at their publications and making them more user-friendly.
We host events based on these publications so that more people will get access to this kind of high quality research so that they can make better decisions. Something that we have been doing since the first year is called the Global Dialogue on Waste, which will start in August. We’ve organized this every year since 2013. We choose a list of topics. It’s like a conference but it happens online over a long period of time.
Waste360: What are some of your major responsibilities at be Waste Wise?
Ranjith Annepu: I run the organization. I curate the topics. I look at what topics should be discussed and how they should be discussed and how they should be structured. I also decide on what type of programs we should offer.
Waste360: What brought you to the industry?
Ranjith Annepu: During college, I knew that I wanted to be in the environmental sector. Once I applied to Columbia University for my master’s in environmental engineering, I got a scholarship from the Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council to study waste management. They said that I could choose any topic to conduct my research on. I got into waste management, and I realized that it was like Christopher Columbus—I had made a huge discovery.
Waste360: Why is it important to make this research and information widely accessible?
Ranjith Annepu: People in our sector don’t talk too much—or they don’t have many opportunities to do so. I’m glad Waste360 is doing Q&As with 40 people so they can share their experiences.
Communicating about waste is important because we provide an amazing service. Every day, hundreds of thousands of waste management professionals are helping with public health safety worldwide, but all of the decisions that have to do with our work are made by people outside of our sector. It’s important to engage people outside of our sector in our conversations and to get them up to speed with the type of knowledge that we have already gained so they can make better decisions.
In our sector, we have already gained a lot of knowledge. We are extremely advanced in some ways. It’s important that we communicate about waste more, and about our experiences and why we are in this sector, so others will understand the importance of the waste management sector.
Waste360: What advice would you give to a young person who is new to the waste management industry?
Ranjith Annepu: This sector is extremely important to public health, improving the quality of life, and creating job opportunities. If you are someone who wants to create change in this world, if you’re someone who wants to improve the well-being of people around you, then waste management is an extremely attractive sector. You can do all of that here. And, since there are so few people working in the sector the impact you can create is much larger.