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The South Asian Forum for Environment’s Resolve: Trash2Cash initiative is an innovative solution to the city of Kolkata’s solid waste problem. It is an independent community enterprise led by people who live in slums and are trained and paid to collect and recycle corporate and household waste in urban areas. The waste is segregated at the source, diverting organic waste from the landfills to produce compost. Paper waste is recycled into marketable handicrafts in a workshop run by women. 


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Key facts:

  • Each month, slum residents collect and recycle 1,000 kg of waste paper and compost 2,000 kg of food waste.
  • This is reducing CO2-equivalent emissions by 520 metric tonnes each year.
  • The enterprise aims to recycle 70-85% of corporate and household waste from urban areas in Kolkata.

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The problem

More than 5,000 tonnes of solid waste is generated every day in the city of Kolkata, India. Dumping of this waste is polluting the groundwater and emitting large amounts of methane gas, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

More than 50% of the urban poor are engaged in the waste trade as collectors, segregators or suppliers. But they are exposed to various health risks and earn extremely low wages.

Image The solution

Recycle: Trash2Cash is led by people who live in slums and are trained and paid to collect and recycle corporate and household waste in urban areas. This waste is segregated at the source and diverted from the landfills, which are slowly encroaching upon the East Kolkata Wetlands, to produce compost. Paper waste is recycled to produce value-added products in women-led workshops and organic waste is turned into compost.

This community-based solid waste management business model addresses two challenges. It offers people living in slums employment opportunities and it reduces the environmental hazards of open waste dumps.

Helping the planet

As a contributor to global climate change, waste ranks third behind energy and transportation. Resolve: Trash2Cash is recycling solid waste and reducing landfill emissions. The reduction of methane emissions as a direct result of diverting organic waste from the landfills and the recycling of paper, is helping to mitigate climate change.

Each month, slum residents collect and recycle 1,000 kg of waste paper and compost 2,000 kg of food waste. This is reducing CO2-equivalent emissions by 520 metric tonnes each year.


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Helping people

Resolve: Trash2Cash is creating sustainable jobs for the urban poor, particularly women, and unemployed young people. So far, the initiative has trained more than 300 women to turn recycled paper into handicrafts. This empowers women and provides economic security.

Of the community beneficiaries trained under the initiative, 18 are currently working as full-time employees, including 7 male waste collectors.

Spillover effect

Resolve: Trash2Cash is not only scalable but also replicable in other urban poor areas around the world.

Other urban areas can replicate the enterprise’s supply-driven waste management system. Partnerships can be created with corporate offices that do not have a system for recycling in place. The paper can be easily recycled into products such as pen stands, dustbins, photo frames, etc. The waste collected for compost has a large market demand in the urban, agricultural and government sectors.

Click the infographic below to see a larger version.

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