With innovative ideas, use of advanced technologies and the internet as major tools for the successful execution of ideas, start-ups in the Indian apparel industry are not just making money, but are also playing a significant role in sustainability. Indeed few of the start-ups are dedicated to various aspects of sustainability like recycling, reusing…. Few of them are making wealth from waste. There are budding entrepreneurs like Muddle Art, Material Library of India, Doodlage and few more which are collecting different kinds of waste and giving them a new birth, making those reusable. Less than 50 per cent of the textile waste in India is currently being reused, repaired or is undergoing high-grade recycling. As waste management is one of the major challenges and textile waste is the third largest source of India’s municipal solid waste, the need and importance of having such start-ups increases greatly.
Waste is now resource for start-ups
Besides overcoming the issue of waste, these start-ups are also touching upon the socio-environmental aspects. With their initiatives, the waste pickers’ lives are also improving. Saahas Zero Waste (SZW), a Bengaluru-based socioenvironmental enterprise, believes in a circular economy, where all waste is recovered as resources. Wilma Rodrigues, Founder of the company says, “The textile sector contributes hugely to the economy, and there is a need to bring it up to speed with the growing circularity demands while upskilling the people it employs. By bringing textile waste back into use, we could preserve national capital and reduce the dependency on virgin resources.”
SZW is working towards managing municipal solid waste in India for nearly a decade. Specifically for textile waste, SZW organises collections across Bengaluru through RWAs, residential complexes, commercial spaces like tech parks.
Few of the start-ups have created a systematic one-stop solution and act as a link between manufacturers and recyclers/other organisations by collecting all kinds of pre-consumer textile waste from brands and manufacturers and then sorting them based on the specifications of the end users/recyclers. Founded in 2019 by Sanjay Chauhan and Ruby Khan, Delhi-based Muddle Art converts pre-consumer textile waste into raw materials and reintroduces it back into the economy. It ensures that the material reaches its final destination without any contamination.
Through its customised solutions for pre-consumer textile waste management, it is currently working with brands like H&M and top exporters like Shahi Exports and Cotton World.
Similarly, Noida-based Material Library of India, an initiative of Shubhi Sachan, a multidisciplinary designer, focuses on remodelling the use of industrial waste materials by combining the knowledge and skills of traditional crafts with modern materials. Also associated with IKEA and NIFT, its textile waste is used to manufacture new yarn, which can then be used to weave new fabrics. The project is a collaboration with ‘after’, an Australia-based start-up, focusing on ethical disposal of textile waste headed by entrepreneur Yesha Patel.
Doodlage, founded by Kriti Tula is a Delhi-based well-known organisation reusing pre-consumer waste and recycled post-consumer waste to make new garments. Its own waste is also converted into accessories and packaging. The waste comes in different shapes and sizes, but the artisans are skilled at putting these pieces together. Once the material is collected, it is checked for defects and collections are designed around various fabric issues and sizes of the panel sourced. It has been consciously using factory discarded clothes to make high end apparel and fashion products.
Working collectively with Allied Blenders and Distillers, Doodlage has been able to divert over 5,000 kg of fabric from landfills and save 46 million litres of water.
Also Read : Textile units get notice from pollution control board; using waste fabric as fuel
3 waste generation streams
PRE-CONSUMER (51 %)
Waste generated before the finished products reach the consumers. This includes waste types such as spinning waste, fabric trimmings/ cuttings, fabric deadstock and unsold garment inventory
DOMESTIC POSTCONSUMER (42 %)
Garments/ textiles discarded by domestic consumers
IMPORTED WASTE STREAM (7 %)
Includes second-hand clothing and mutilated rags imported to India
Due recognition for their efforts
Despite being new and having limited team and resources, the start-ups in this segment are getting good recognition for their efforts.
Muddle Art recently emerged to be one of the 30 start-ups to have been shortlisted for this year’s Swachhata Start-up Challenge (an initiative of Indian Government) for work towards the appropriate disposal and management of pre-consumer textile waste. Prior to this, it was also one of the top five winners of the ‘Techtonic – Innovations in Waste Management’, a joint initiative by Social Alpha and the H&M Foundation.
Similarly, Shubhi Sachan got the opportunity to share his views, observations about the industry and various issues on many prestigious platforms across the globe.
Various trade bodies are also actively supporting the waste issue and helping the stakeholders to resolve these through various ways. Recently Fashion for Good developed a first-of-its-kind textile waste value hierarchy for India that provides a consolidated view of how the ecosystem currently perceives the value of the different waste types. It used the EU waste hierarchy framework for this hierarchy. This hierarchy acts as a toolkit to understand material types that require interventions to realise their value potential.
There are some more such starts-up that support similar aspect of sustainability in various ways like turning plastic waste into apparel, producing zero waste garments. As awareness regarding sustainability is continuously growing, it will not be wrong to expect that in future, such efforts and start-ups, both will see an increase.