Kabadiwalla Connect

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Kabadiwalla Connect supports local communities to tap into India’s informal waste ecosystem and turn waste into materials of value. Over 1,000 tons of paper, 400 tons of plastic, 2,000 tons of metal and nearly 1 million bottles of waste have been recycled thus far, empowering a network of over 500 local scrap dealers. The project not only takes urgent action to reduce waste, but also ensures decent work and livelihoods for workers in country’s informal economic sector

Founder Siddharth Hande, who used to organise clean-up drives on beaches with his college friends, came up with concept to use technology to change the waste ecosystem. "We realised very quickly that we are just moving waste from one place to another and not attacking the root of the problem. After we had cleaned up the beaches, we saw the waste pickers come in and pick up the materials that had value."

Research plays a crucial role in launching a social enterprise by helping entrepreneurs take time to study untapped markets, and look at poverty-related issues under a different lens.We need to think about larger issues, like efficiency and equity.

—Siddharth Hande, Chennai Hub

Kabadiwallas are small shop owners who are part of an informal recycling industry. They buy materials such as paper and glass from waste pickers who collect them from businesses and homes. The waste is then sold again to middlemen, eventually ending up in processing facilities.

A former spatial data analyst, Hande believed the small dealers were critical players in the recycling chain, but needed data to prove it. With a grant from the Global Shapers Community, Hande and his team mapped and surveyed more than 1,000 kabadiwallas and found the majority of scrap owners earned $150-300 a month. The survey also revealed that 70 percent of kabadiwallas used smartphones.

Kabadiwalla Connect now runs a waste management facility, bypassing the middleman, which allows kabadiwallas to sell their waste at higher prices. The company collects, sorts and resells materials directly to processors. A smartphone app allows small dealers to request a pickup from the company, and second app helps homeowners and businesses locate a kabadiwallas and arrange for a waste picker to collect from them directly.