Reusing Waste: New Ideas of Waste Valorisation

My name is Kévin and I am SWASH Project Manager in Naddi and SWASH Project Coordinator. I started my internship in September in a field that was completely new for me. Even the environment field was something that I didn’t deal with in depth. I had some lessons in high school and in my university but they only taught me a broad vision of it. So I started my internship with little knowledge about environment and I was trying to learn as much as I could to find my way in my project. 

The two first months were intense, learning about waste management. Hopefully, I had someone to teach me a lot and to guide me, Elliott, a previous intern who was also SWASH Project Manager in Naddi and the previous SWASH Project Coordinator. After he left, I was completely in charge of the project he was taking care of in Naddi, the solid waste management system provided to the shopkeepers of Naddi.

The first days were very hard to handle since I was alone on the project and had to adapt to what my partner did before. And I also had to think about what I could do in the next weeks/months for the project. The arrival of a new intern, Valerio, brought a new dynamic to my project and inspired me a lot for possible things I could do for my project. He asked to work with me on reusing textile waste and also creating natural colors by reusing different types of organic waste. This was the beginning of a strong partnership.

One of his ideas was to create brown color by using tea waste. I decided to ask one shopkeeper to keep his tea waste in a little recipient. I was skeptic about the shopkeeper doing what we asked for but he did it, which means that he was willing to separate this specific type of waste. The experiment of applying tea waste to white textile (wool) gave a positive result, which means that tea bags can be reused in a large scale. Every shopkeeper can keep tea waste that can be used to give brown color to textile. Valerio experimented with other types of colors by using turmeric, henna, beetroot and red cabbage, although these ones are not necessarily considered waste.

Tea waste applied to wool

Valerio and I also wanted to reuse textile waste since it is also a type of waste that is visible in dumping areas. Before his arrival, I never thought about this type of waste and the previous interns never did either. So it is very interesting to have a new focus and work on how to valorise it. Reusing is not necessarily the best idea in the long-term since you cannot reuse it as many times as you want and you cannot reuse every single part of it. But it is still an efficient solution on the short and mid-term. We decided to find ways of reusing textile waste and had a lot of discussion about it. 

At the beginning, we simply asked the tailors of Naddi and the Chenni community households to sort their waste in a box. Apparently, the tailors and their own families are reusing the waste so it is not thrown on the streets. So we didn’t go further with them since they were not generating waste. On the Chenni community, the placement of a big box in the « main square » of the community gave no results after two weeks because the community members didn’t understand that the box was for textile waste. They were using as a simple trash box. So we asked Madhu, a Hindi speaker intern, to come and clarify each household that the box was dedicated to textile waste and not to all types of trash. Finally, after one month, the box was used properly and Valerio collected a lot of fabrics that can now be reused. 

Nevertheless, Naddi didn’t bring a lot of opportunities considering textile waste. So Valerio and I decided to stay in Rait for 3 days and see what we can do there. We worked together with Pooja, SWASH Project Manager in Rait centre, and the rest of the team. Apparently, Rait offers more opportunities than Naddi since the textile waste is thrown on the streets and in dumps. We collected waste from one tailor and kept it in the interns’ house. The first stay in Rait was used to essentially observe and assess the needs of the community. After the stay, we promoted textile waste reuse during the Red Cross Fair at Dharamsala and I hope that enlightened our initiative.

Promotion of textile waste reuse during the Red Cross Fair  

The second stay in Rait brought a big achievement to the initiative of textile waste reuse. After 2 days there, we created samples of pillow covers and bags made only with fabrics. Valerio learnt how to stitch from Pooja and now they can both teach in Naddi and Rait how to make these types of textile works made only with textile waste. The next objective is to help the communities produce pillow covers, bags, etc. and sell them in REstore. It would be also a good opportunity for Rait centre to have a REstore. 

I am happy that many achievements have been done in this project. I would encourage future interns to keep it growing and I hope it would give new ideas to them. Finding ways to valorise waste, by reducing, by reusing or by recycling, is the key to the success of solid waste management projects in EduCARE.  

Samples of pillow covers and bags made with textile waste

Kévin Sundareswaran – France

SWASH Project Coordinator,

Naddi (Himachal Pradesh)

December 15, 2015