Waste Warriors: POPi Partner Stepping in Where There’s No Formal Waste Collection Infrastructure

While the desire to have a cleaner planet is widely shared, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, especially if basic infrastructure to handle waste isn’t there.

Founded with a vision of a cleaner India, POPi partner Waste Warriors launched with simple cleanups in mountain areas and now helps everyday citizens across varied social and economic strata work together to create sustainable, affordable, and replicable systems to manage solid waste. Even in areas where government isn’t providing these services, Waste Warriors helps to get it done.

The interconnected web that Waste Warriors works to create involves education and behavior change (helping citizens consider the impact of the waste they create and also properly sort it) and then partners with informal sector waste pickers, scrap dealers and municipalities to build out the rest of the reverse logistics chain. Waste Warriors’ work can point to key successes:

  • 5000 metric tonnes (11 million pounds) of waste collected from homes, businesses, tourist spots, and through group cleanups since starting operations in 2012.
  • Operation of the first Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Uttarakhand since 2019 in which over 600 metric tons (1.3 million pounds) of non-biodegradable waste has been sorted and sent for recycling. The MRF sources recyclables from eight local self-help groups consisting of 88 informal and formalized waste workers.
  • Engagement and training of 391 waste workers who participate by trading their recyclable waste in exchange for better daily income and training.
  • Participation of 15,000 homes in source segregation of waste, allowing for doorstep collection of separated materials.

Waste Warriors’ current focus lies primarily far from the ocean in the mountains of north central India. This region, like many across the Himalayas, is in need of better waste collection infrastructure to prevent waste from being dumped and swept away downstream into major rivers like the Ganges and Indus, which lead ultimately to the sea. The actions of Waste Warriors shows that even inland, how waste is managed near mountains and their rivers has the potential to affect ocean health.

Visit Waste Warriors to check out their great videos and learn more about their approach.  

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