Connecting you to your local Kabadiwalla | Introducing our information service

Did you know that Chennai generates around 5000 tons of waste every single day? To put that into perspective, that’s approximately half the weight of the Eiffel Tower. On a daily basis, this waste is then loaded into open trucks and transported to the outskirts of the city, where it’s dumped in a landfill. A majority of this waste is left untreated and as a consequence, landfills are quickly reaching full capacity. In fact, Chennai’s primary landfills - at Kodungaiyur and Pallikaranai - are both projected to reach the end of their lifespan this year, with no alternative destination for waste in sight!

With the national momentum behind the government’s Swachh Bharat program, many cities are acknowledging the pressing need to handle waste better. Since the landfill model is hardly sustainable, an increasing number of urban communities are trying to make the shift towards segregating waste at source, a crucial step in the recycling process. Such groups are still a minority in Chennai, but are growing by the day. 

Unfortunately, segregation isn’t enough. Municipal mechanisms aren’t currently equipped to handle a recycling-based waste management model and as a consequence, even though many households do segregate their wet and dry waste, it is mixed once again post-collection. Indian cities still lack formal back-end infrastructure to centrally manage the recycling of different streams of waste. As our cities grow bigger and we generate more complex waste, the task to provide this infrastructure is made even harder. Luckily, almost every Indian city has a parallel informal waste ecosystem that can do just that!

Find the closest scrap dealer that can take your recyclable waste

We are really excited to announce the launch of a free online information service that can help you find your neighbourhood scrap-dealer! By using this platform, you can ensure that your recyclable waste is being responsibly managed, rather than ending up in a landfill. Scrap-dealers have been collecting waste for decades now and have already formed links with recyclers across the country. This includes both local recyclers, as well as recycling hubs as far as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi. 

The benefits of sending waste to Chennai’s scrap-dealer community are numerous. Environmentally speaking, of course, they help keep a lot of recyclable material out of the landfill. But did you know that they also pay competitive prices for the waste they purchase from you? Moreover, they also run fairly organized businesses and many of them can arrange for waste to be picked up directly from your house!

At present, our information service covers Zone 13 of the city, which covers Adyar, Besant Nagar, Guindy and Velachery. We’ve mapped 204 kabadiwallas in this area, who collect paper, plastic, metal, glass and other items. Our fieldwork is ongoing, and the next few weeks will see the inclusion of two more zones (Teynampet and Anna Nagar).

How you can use our information service

  1. Click on a kabadiwalla cluster in your neighbourhood, or type in your locality in the search bar.
  2. Then, click on an individual point to get specific information about that kabadiwalla.
  3. Click on the neighbourhood statistics tab [available when you visit]. We built in this feature to showcase how much our local scrap dealers contribute to recycling. Did you know that in Zone 13 they are responsible for recycling 387 tons of paper, 79 tons of plastic, 492 tons of metal and 579,000 glass bottles every month? We think that’s amazing!
  4. Explore how much kabadiwallas recycle in your neighbourhood by zooming in to your locality, or by dragging the map.
  5. Finally, share this page on Facebook and Twitter!

The way forward | become a neighbourhood champion

For communities that are already segregating waste, the way forward is simple - log on to our website, find your nearest kabadiwalla and give him a call.

However, there are still several areas in the city where households and commercial establishments don’t segregate their waste. Our focus over the next few months is to work with concerned citizens and spread awareness about the importance of segregation, as well as provide a blueprint for the process. To help us with this task, we are looking to build a community of volunteers who are invested in improving how different localities handle their recyclable waste; if that’s you, get in touch with us! We’re calling you our neighbourhood champions, and you can write to us here.