Waste Warriors - Our Updates

About Us:
Waste Warriors is a for-impact youth-led solid waste management organisation. We began in the littered mountains of Dharamshala with a vision of a clean India. There is an urgent need to build SWM systems to mitigate the effects of waste pollution, especially plastics, in urban, rural, and eco-sensitive regions.

We focus on community engagement, behavioural change, waste infrastructure development, productive government collaborations, and the upliftment and livelihood development of all waste workers. Our 100+ staff, including formal waste workers, are building systems in Dehradun, Dharamshala, Rishikesh, and in villages around Corbett Tiger Reserve and Uttarkashi’s Govind Sanctuary.

1) Overall updates for April-June 2021
Despite the challenging circumstances around COVID, our teams have been working hard both on the ground in communities to raise awareness, at our waste centres to segregate recyclables, and even online to conduct campaigns and remote learning, which was quite a shift for many who are so much more comfortable talking to their community members in-person in urban and rural neighbourhoods. With great effort the team was able to continue to engage thousands of residents, hundreds of waste workers, and collectedd and processed 167 MT of waste from these Himalayan urban and rural landscapes.

2) Progress on the goals listed while on-boarding
Online Exposure Visits:
Due to COVID curfews and travel restrictions, one of the things we initiated to promote continuous learning was to make exposure visits into an online and inclusive experience, attended by team members from all locations. We organized 4 sessions: two were with team members from Saahas where we learnt (i) about effective systems for developing rural waste management and (ii) got a virtual tour of how they operate their material recovery facility in Bangalore. Our 3rd session was with one of the Directors of the Center for Eco-Technology in Massachusetts, USA, which is a pioneering organization for waste reduction and environmental performance. The 4th was an inter-location knowledge transfer session on community engagement, attended by team members who are rarely able to meet each other due to the distances between their project locations.

Training & Development:
While team members were at home during covid curfews, we got some of them who were eager to learn to attend English learning sessions by a teacher in Kolkatta, as well as a management training course by READ Foundation for some of our project managers.

We also organized an online session for all female staff on International Women’s Day, a mental health session for all team members who wanted to be part of this group therapy.

For our waste workers who were able to come to our centers, we had organized a menstrual hygiene session for all female waste workers, moderated by a team member experienced in communicating the sensitivity of the information to them. Our team member in Corbett with experience in teaching upcycling was able to conduct a remote hands-on session to teach upcycling to our workers in two other locations.

Policy Research:
We were able to get support to help us better understand Uttarakhand and Himachal’s administrative and institutional ecosystem, as well as the large and diverse list of laws, bylaws, acts, policies, rules, and guidelines that exist around waste management, EPR, forest/revenue land, Swacchh Bharat urban/rural, Panchayati Raj, among many others. This has helped us get a better understanding of how to approach the challenges of waste management implementation from a top-down approach, instead of struggling with a grassroots approach.

3) Any challenges
Our main and crucial challenges were with engaging community members during the second-wave state-level covid lockdowns and additional curfews and gathering restrictions. Our waste workers were also taking a stricter approach to sanitizing dry waste that was being collected and that was coming into our centers, a process which took additional time and resources, but was essential for their safety.

Our second but also critical challenge is that we are finding it difficult to find a funding partner for our Corbett project and our efforts there to build solid waste management systems for rural villages in the landscape outside the Corbett Tiger Reserve, near Ramnagar.

4) Any new avenues of collaboration (with other Grantees of RCF or other NPO/NGO)
Building Partnerships:
Ecofriendly Startups - Our teams were able to initiate partnerships remotely with ecofriendly startups like Ecokarma for their ecofriendly and alternative lifestyle products made by SHGs and artisans, and with PashooPakshee who train local artisans to design and make eco-products and apparel and provide mentoring for entrepreneurs and SHGs.

International Coalitions - We recently became a core member in India of Break Free From Plastic, a global movement and coalition of organizations around the world that are tackling plastic pollution. We also became a member of Catalysts 2030, a global movement of social entrepreneurs and social change innovators.

NGO Partner - We beacme one of four NGO partners around the world being supported by the Preserve Ocean Plastic Initiative (POPi), who make lifestyle products out of plastic rescued from the ocean. POPi is giving a part of their proceeds to these four NGOs for our efforts to keep plastic out of ecosystems, from the mountains where we work to rivers and oceans where the plastics would have ended up.

Plastic Credits - We have partnered with rePurpose Global for our first plastic credits pilot project, where our efforts to collect, sort, and transport low-value multi-layered packaging (MLP) from remote areas is now being supported by this concept taken forward by rePurpose. We have started by addressing the MLP being collected in our Dehradun and Corbett locations.

5) Highlights from the initiatives being undertaken as part of your organization
One of the key highlights of this quarter was “The Green Gurukul Challenge”, which was our month-long competition from April 19th to May 19th 2021 that we launched with the vision of building a community of students who dispose of their waste correctly and have a civic sense of cleanliness. The competition was focused on waste management and climate change. 450+ students enrolled in the challenge, representing 64 schools across 22 cities of India, and worked on over 1300 tasks while innovating to solve the problem of waste in their localities.

6) Outcomes you are chasing for the next 6 months (these can remain the same if unchanged since the last update)
We are looking forward to developing our partnership with NCR-based Architecture for Dialogue to incorporate public engagement design elements into the architecture of our upcoming Material Recovery Facility in Dharamshala for better experiential learning and for the space to be more inclusive and educational for waste workers who will be coming there to deposit collected dry waste.

We are eager to initiate some groundwork post-curfews with PashooPakshee for the training and development of our SHG women who are part of our Corbett team so that they can learn how to make better upcycled products out of waste material readily available to them from the 1000+ households that they regularly collect from in 18 villages.

We will be continuing to improve our understanding of the institutional and policy ecosystem to advocate for and promote better implementation and enforcement of solid waste and plastic waste management rules, especially in rural areas where the collection and reverse logistics of waste is very challenging.

7) KPIs (please use this section to let us know of the impact and reach of your work since the last update)
Total number of people engaged through awareness-raising, collecting waste at their doorstep, and from conducting sessions: 8900+
Total amount of dry waste collected from the source, including households, commercial and hospitality establishments, other bulk generators, government offices, and other waste value chain channels: 167 Metric Tonnes.

8) Can Rainmatter be of help with anything at all
We would be happy to get some advice and guidance from Rainmatter team members and partners on improving organizational capacity and internal processes, as well as any networking references to foundations who would be interested in supporting our efforts in the Corbett Landscape.

9) Any additional details you would like to provide

10) Please also share any images or videos that you have documented as part of your work

Video: A Day In The Life Of Manda, A Waste Worker in Dharamshala

Video: Harrawala: A Second Model Ward for Waste Management in Dehradun