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Creative solutions for India's waste problem

January 28, 2020

With rapid urbanization, New Delhi is facing a massive waste management problem. A social start-up wants to turn the city's trash into trendy handbags and furniture, and highlight growing social inequality along the way.

Indien: Umweltbelastung und Luftverschmutzung in Neu-Delhi
Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Faget

Global Ideas: New life for waste in India

Project goal: Swechha is a New Delhi based, youth-run organization that aims to tackle India's growing social inequality. Through one of its projects, "'Green The Map', which upcycles products from waste, Swechha is working to alert the public to waste management as well as environmental and public health issues. Among many other things, 'Green The Map' produces stationary, bags and purses from waste, and sells them online. The project also aims to raise awareness of the plight and contribution of India's waste pickers and sorters.

Project implementation: Swechha works in New Delhi and the National Capital Region of India. They hope to set an example for the rest of the country and to inspire others to undertake similar projects.

Project budget: Swechha and 'Green The Map' have a collective annual budget of Rs 30,000,000 (€381,819). 

Project timeframe: Ongoing since it started in 2000.

New Delhi has faced refuse problems for years. Its littered streets, clogged rivers and huge landfills are hard to ignore. 

The video report follows environmentalist Vimlendu Jha through New Delhi as he talks about the scale of the city's waste problem. He is the founder of the social start-up 'Green the Map'. While municipalities struggle to manage the city's huge amounts of trash, a surprisingly large portion of it is handled by informal waste-pickers. They collect pieces from dumps and re-sell them in the busy side streets of Old Delhi. 

'Green the Map’ employs 12 full-time staff of which many are migrants. The project has provided the opportunity for a much needed decent and well-paid job. One employee, a tailor called Tamjeet Ali, is grateful to have escaped a life working in a factory or carrying cement in building projects.

A film by Aditi Rajagopal