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Recycling Around the World A-Z : India

Recycling Around the World A-Z : India

Recycling Around the World A to Z: India

Here in the UK, we generate around 550kg of waste per person each year. We recycle just under half of this. In India, only half a kilo of waste is generated per person, and about a quarter of this is recycled. People in India generally have very little, but the size of the population means that even half a kilo of waste per person adds up to a huge amount of waste.

Methods of waste collection and recycling

There is no formal garbage collection service in place, instead small traders collect rubbish and trade it for other items. In Delhi, only 5% of homes have access to a waste collection service, but almost 60% of waste is recycled. This is down the efforts of around 150,000 people who make a living from collecting and trading it.

India’s unofficial waste traders


These street vendors roam the streets carrying bundles of clothes and items such as cookware, exchanging them for other products using a bartering system. Because people make money from recycling goods, they are less likely to throw goods away.


This trader offers to buy old papers and magazines. They then sell them onto paper recycling companies. There is a fashion brand called Fab India that uses old newspapers to make bags for their goods.


These traders pick up items such as old toasters and broken chairs, and sell them onto companies who reuse the materials to make new products.

Recycling entrepreneurs

This informal trading is not regulated, so the people who do it to make money remain poor. Add to this the fact that a lot of these traders are actually children, and there are obvious chances of exploitation and of their occupation seriously jeopardising their health and safety. However, there have been some moves towards introducing some organisation.

Paperman, a private company provides care and employment to the rubbish collectors and rag traders who work and live in Chennai.

The company are looking to sell raw materials to foreign companies in the future.

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