“Changing the Mindset of People is very Important in Recycling”

Surendra Patawari is the Chairman of Gemini Corporation N.V; head quatered in Belgium, who is a sought after personality in Recycling industry and also been the chairman of the plastics division of the Bureau of International Recycling(BIR) for more than a decade. Steel360 caught up with Surendra Patawari to know more about green recycling and his outlook on circular economy.
Excerpts of interview

Q. What is the business model of Gemini Corporation?

A. Gemini is engaged in sourcing, inspection, logistics, legal compliance while thinking the world is a small village and we work from 1500 locations worldwide, shipping to 60 countries. Our business model is we would ship some material, we would request the consignee to process it and give it back us so we want full circular form of economy for the company.
I don’t want my company to be called a trading company. I like that we do the complete circle. We sell steel scrap to many companies, we request them to give us back as sheets which we store and distribute in Europe. We also recycle a lot of vehicle tires that is around 50 million tires. When we sell a tire we ask the buyer to give us tire back at the end of its life which we sell to Korea and get it back in powdered form to which we sell to Saudi Arabia for making roads. So in this way, we like to do full circular economy and that’s our business model.

Q. How did you start in Belgium?

A. I think that’s a very interesting story. I started about 30-32 years back. I did my Charted Accountancy in India. I went there for training. When I would see when I buy a cup in England they would pack it so big, as opposed in India they would just give u a cup. In the beginning, it was tough. I could manage to start at a time when recycling was in a very infancy stage. Not body knows much about it. It was a fancy business people would say that you are doing great work but there were no laws and regulations about it. When the laws were evolving which was the best period because the laws were not there. As soon as the laws were enacted, at that time my degree and education of Charted Accountancy helped. So the Europian took notice that Gemini is following the law very strictly and have been reasonably successful then after. People recognize our company and in waste regulations, you must be correct and follow compliance particularly in Europe.

Q. What are the R&D you have brought in and whats the technology that you are using that’s making things more sustainable?

A. When I started the business there were many that people were throwing away on the floor or the landfills. For an instance, I remember tire wires from tires people would not use that. We would try to do a different type of experiment try to convince recyclers. When I started, tire wire used to come with money so they would give me tire wire plus some money to get rid of it. Now thanks to the international movement of goods, tire wire has a positive value. So one of the important role Gemini play the geographical arbitrage where there is surplus material and you can not reprocess recycle, we bring it from that place to a place where it can be recycled anywhere in the globe.
I say in my office that Gemini has been able to build many highways now you can use that highway for plasting. For plastic, rubber, glass legal compliance is the same, the logistic is same the quality parameter you use the people with experience, the technical people you take their services you put them all together and the business is there.

Q. The company has grown over a period of time. Now, what are you aiming next?

A. Gemini has grown quite a lot over the period of time but it should grow more. People think about your turnover is around 575 million dollars from the Indian point of view it’s quite a big turn over but this business is a business of billions. But you may ask why you are not able to do it. There are several reasons for that.
First, in this business, you need people who are willing to put in extra hours, willing to go inside of a country in a different part of the world and most importantly we need people who we can trust completely. We are taking people almost every week and training them. I am sure that Gemini would reach a billion dollar in next 2-3 year.

Q.You are mainly focused on the European side? Are you connected with India for recycling?

A. India has been a part of the game but it has never been. We do supply steel, rubber last year to India. But it has never been a priority for me the main reason being ignorance of the public and also the authority. The people who we supply material, they get a license for one year. I need a place where there is regularity of pick up that’s why I said “irreversible long term relations”. I make contracts with the company in the US, Europe that we would buy for 5 years. To counterbalance I need buyers who can import it for 5 years but here licenses are given for a short period and when you have a short period license people don’t invest. So the industry remains under-invested it’s not very well. That is the reason why the plastic industry is heavily undercapitalized.

Q. Do you think the Indian government is aware of these requirements?

A. To be honest I don’t know. As an industrialist, I have given speeches in different forms. There have been authorities, ministers, and many times I carry papers through which I share mind-boggling figures. So I always carry supporting papers. When I speak of these figures people don’t believe me saying that “you are talking about 26 trillion dollars” and that’s the report by 28 formal heads of states. So when you give them something in writing they believe it.

Q. What can bring changes in recycling and what is the need of the hour?

A. I think Young and educated people would make a difference and they are most essential for bringing any changes. I think I might take another 5 years to change the mindset of the people. Changing the mindset of people is very important. Education at the core level is needed which is presently missing. People should not encourage plastic for Food grade application and nobody would invest in higher quality because if I invest in higher quality who would buy material. My message to the people is to stop food grade application of plastic that means you don’t have investment and when you don’t have high-quality investment how the quality of Indian recycled material would improve. Five guys have done some mistake, for that you don’t punish other ninety-five. You must make rules and monitor the enforcement of the rules.