India produces 3.4 million tons of plastic waste annually, with only 30% recycled.

By 2031, the municipal solid waste generated in India is projected to reach 165 million tons, and further up to 436 million tons by 2050.

In India, there are approximately 1.5-4 million informal waste pickers.


Street waste collectors, itinerant buyers, and sorters in scrap shops and dry waste collection centres (collectively referred to as waste pickers) are a vital part of the country’s waste management system. Waste pickers in India play a multifaceted role in climate action, contributing to waste reduction, resource recovery, GHG emission reduction, circular economy promotion, community engagement, and inclusive urban development.  While they play a critical role in society, they face a myriad of challenges, including social stigma, absence of legal recognition, and limited access to health, safety, and social security benefits. They work in precarious conditions and are exposed to health hazards without adequate protective measures.   

Integrating waste pickers into formal waste management systems, providing them with fair remuneration, and ensuring their access to health and safety measures can amplify their positive impact.  With a strong alignment with H&M Foundation’s vision of enabling waste pickers to become key players in a global circular system, Social Alpha joined Phase 1 of the Saamuhika Shakti initiative in 2020. As we embark on Phase 2, we aim to support start-ups who are on the path to creating breakthrough innovations for a circular economy while providing agency to waste picker families to lead secure and dignified lives.  

Focus Areas

Who Should Apply

Innovators and entrepreneurs working to accelerate innovative circular economy solutions in India with the potential to provide alternate employment opportunities to individuals from waste picker families.

Program Offerings

Market Validation: 8 start-ups to be supported with funding of INR 20 lakhs each to implement a pilot.
Knowledge Services: Curated set of offerings to provide support on digitization or marketing and branding.
Go-To-Market Strategy : 1-year long incubation at Social Alpha with dedicated portfolio managers to assist with developing go-to-market strategy and overall business advisory.
Mentorship: One on one engagement & mentorship with experts from the waste management sector, and technology and business support through sectoral experts.
Funding Support : Opportunity to access seed capital of up to INR 1 Cr per start-up, subject to Social Alpha’s due diligence.

Important Dates

  • Launch of Techtonic: Innovations for a Circular Economy

    3rd June 2024
  • Application Deadline

    17th July 2024
  • Grand Jury Round

    14th August 2024
  • Announcement of Winners

    21st August 2024
  • Pilot implementation

    September 2024 onwards

Our Partners

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