Aasra Welfare Association – CAIF Partnership: Turning Waste to Value

By Trina Roy
17 June, 2022
4 mins read

A bottom up, green entrepreneurship approach to build a systemic solution to post consumer textile waste

Municipal waste in India is increasingly witnessing large quantities of textile waste coming within the dry waste streams, particularly from households. While donations and thrifting have been common ways to give away clothes after their use, large volumes continue to be found in these waste streams.  In the absence of a systematic collection and waste management service for textile waste including garments and home linen, there is a solution gap that needs urgent addressing.

Aasra Welfare Organisation and CAIF recently launched a pilot to test a waste management service system for local collection and sorting of post-consumer textile waste. Launched in ward, H/West in Mumbai, the pilot leverages the existing dry waste collection mechanism, and their close interactions with residents in the area; to establish a parallel and dedicated textile waste management system that is convenient and transparent.

“Our citizens are extremely happy and excited about the project. We are getting calls and WhatsApp messages regarding the waste pickup and drop off requests. Citizens are happy that now with the help of this project they are even able to divert textile waste from landfills.”, says Himani Airan, Manager, Aasra Welfare Association

“When we first visited  Aasra the scale of the problem really became apparent for us. Without dedicated efforts, when residents sent in bags of clothes they would typically pile up until a buyer of that bulk could be found.  A dedicated system really gives us the opportunity to shift from these stop gap measures and look at the problem holistically, approach it in a way that we can turn waste into value”, says Trina Roy, Senior Associate, Intellecap currently managing the “Closing the Loop on Textile Waste” project supported by IKEA Foundation.

Seven key highlights from our pilot:

1.       Citizen outreach is the starting point of establishing a waste management system for post-consumer waste. Awareness generation efforts have to focus on making citizens realise that like any other waste, textile waste too needs specialised handling.

2.       A well-managed and robust collection system that is convenient for the citizen to give clothes and at the same time ensures a steady flow for the  Centre has to be the foundation for such a system.

3.       If collection is the foundation, sorting is the ‘secret sauce’! The better you sort, the better you find market linkages, and the better value you can realise. Sorting of the waste must be market informed and match the needs of the downstream uptaker.

4.       Creation of green jobs is at the crux of establishing such a system.  Jobs in collection, sorting and repair are some of the first opportunities to create jobs within the waste value chain. However, opportunities to upskill and explore new jobs that are supplementing the value chain are ample as well and can be unlocked for the waste worker community. Tapping into their growing aspirations for jobs, roles such as facility supervisors, marketing agents, salespersons may also be explored.

5.   Urbanisation of our cities has been challenging for the Waghri community– the traditional recyclers of India who have for decades been in the trade of collecting clothes in exchange of utensils. Disallowed from entering apartments and gated colonies, their livelihood has been dwindling as they lose out on access to old clothes. In the pilot we are connecting with these communities, as downstream bulk uptakers for some proportion of our collection.

6.       Extending the life of clothes to give it a second life is one of the most valuable channels of handling post-consumer clothes. Recycling of clothes to fibre is underdeveloped, and not a solution that is readily available. Finding different markets and channels for resale not only reduces leakage of waste into the environment, but may also generate green job creation opportunities for the waste worker community.

7.       The poorest quality of waste that is soiled and torn continues to be growing challenge, and typically is sent to cement kilns for incineration. Innovations turning this type of waste into circular products are far and few, however an increasingly promising area of solution testing.

“As the pilot continues to gain traction, our partnership with Aasra has been very exciting and we together continue to innovate with fresh ideas. This entire system is one of a kind, and we are constantly looking at novel ways in which we can test out different variations that can at a unit level strengthen the model. The early response from citizens has been heartening, and the next six months should have a lot in store”, add Trina

“The big, non-recyclable heaps of textile waste is the major waste found in landfills. We are happy that through this project Aasra as an organization got a chance to contribute in increasing the life-span of the old cloth. There was a time when clothes were made of pure cotton and can be degraded in the environment naturally but now most of the clothes are made of synthetic materials which takes more than a decade or even centuries to degrade.” says Haider Ali Sayyed, Founder, Aasra Welfare Association

To know more about the project, please reach out to us using the comments section. If you’d like to donate your clothes you can visit our facility in Bandra. Please call on +91 9321888855. If you are a resident of H/West Ward (Bandra, Khar, Santa Cruz (West)), we will be happy to come pick it up from you. Please call on the above number to get in touch.

This blog is part of our knowledge series highlighting updates and learnings from the “Closing the Loop on Textile Waste” Project, in partnership with Enviu, and supported by the IKEA Foundation. 

Aasra Welfare Association (AWA) is a not-for-profit organization founded in the year 2015 by Haider Ali Sayyed, with the primary objective to uplift the lives of waste-pickers. While developing waste-pickers’ strength and unity, Aasra Welfare Association has taken up flagship projects of developing and operating waste management facilities in an environment friendly and sustainable manner. These waste management centers are state-of-the-art material recovery facilities. They are strategically developed taking into consideration the necessities and essentials for waste-pickers (aka, safai sathis), ensuring their safety and security.

Trina Roy
Trina Roy

Trina Roy is a Senior Associate with CAIF with a focus on Gender, Social and Inclusive Circular Business Models