Transforming the informal waste sector in India
The collection of and management of plastics in India is a major challenge. According to data from the Central Pollution Control Board, the total waste generated in India is 160038.9 tonnes per day, of which 152749.5 (95%) is collected per day. Of this, 50% is treated, and about 18% goes into landfill. 31.7% of the waste, or 50655.4 tonnes per day is unaccounted for. This waste problem has a damaging impact on the environment and the people working in the sector. Uncollected or unsorted plastic ends up in the natural environment, leading to pollution across the ecosystem.
Waste collectors and workers in India often work for waste-management micro-enterprises, small informal enterprises working in the waste sector, and part of the informal waste sector. This means they aren’t organised by the government and are unable to provide decent labour conditions or offer fair wages.
This leads to waste collectors and workers often being exploited, where instances of child labour, discrimination and harassment are not uncommon. Workers are mostly women who already come from poor socio-economic backgrounds and earn very little.
The partnershipThe partnership with Saahas Zero Waste aims to change this by having informal waste work be formally recognised employment under decent work conditions. Saahas Zero Waste will partner and train three informal waste-management micro-entrepreneurs and scrap dealers with business skills and knowledge.
Saahas Zero Waste works with corporates like IKEA to recover plastic and provides the company analytics on the supply chain and through that actionable insights into the company’s entire waste management value chain.
The entrepreneurs participating will be provided basic equipment infrastructure support as well as work compliance and a business model to ensure they can be self-sustaining. Each micro-entrepreneur, in turn, employs on average 20 waste workers that work in a local facility where plastic waste is collected, sorted and materials recovered. This will result in higher standards of working conditions, better protection for workers and the ability to offer minimum wages and a stable livelihood. One of the micro-entrepreneurs in the project is female-led, supporting and focusing on women’s empowerment.
The partnership will focus on innovation and technology and will demonstrate an integrated approach to turning plastic waste into opportunities that will see plastic waste collected in an end-to-end recovery. This will be a source of secondary raw material for IKEA in the region and will provide detailed traceability to the plastics sourced, supporting IKEA’s ambition to work with sustainable raw material and become a circular business by 2030.