Improving our understanding of the informal waste ecosystem and what it means for the circular economy in India

Apart from official systems of waste management (executed by the city municipality) in India’s major cities, there is a robust ‘informal’ ecosystem of traders in recyclable waste materials that mainly consists of waste pickers, small scrap-dealers (Kabadiwallas), and wholesalers. 

These traders form an important ecosystem for handling recycled waste and their network is connected to many residences, commercial establishments and industries in the city. Our primary research suggests that as much as 33% of all the recyclable waste generated in Chennai is handled informally by this network.

We believe that this ecosystem represents a unique opportunity to integrate a more decentralised, cheaper and efficient model of resource recovery for cities in the developing world. 

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