India grapples with a colossal waste management challenge, exacerbated by rapid urbanisation, growing population, and increasing consumption patterns. Each day, the country generates approximately 160,000 tons of solid waste, a figure that will grow more dismal. The existing infrastructure is inadequate and calls for a systemic approach to address insufficient segregation at source, poor collection systems, outdated technologies, and an unregulated informal sector. The need of the hour is to transform the sector by rethinking and reinventing the way we handle, recycle, and create value from the various waste streams while closely engaging with the waste picker community, which is the backbone of the waste management industry.


Waste pickers in India, estimated to be between 15 lakh and 40 lakh, play a vital role in the country’s waste management ecosystem. The waste that has thus far been collected, segregated, and disposed of is largely attributed to their efforts. Despite being recognised as important stakeholders in the country’s legal and policy framework – the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 and Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, they earn low and unstable incomes and lack access to social and livelihood security. With waste management being an essential service, the community continues to be vulnerable to health risks arising from inadequate safety measures while handling waste.

Social Alpha and the H&M Foundation joined hands to facilitate the integration of innovations into the waste management ecosystem. Social Alpha, as part of the Saamuhika Shakti initiative, launched Waste Innovation Accelerators with an aim to enable start-ups with transformative potential to accelerate the circular economy while enabling social inclusion for the informal waste pickers, to pilot their solutions along with providing them with opportunities to widen their impact footprint.

Winning Cohort Phase 1
Program Impact
informal waste pickers employed
tons of waste diverted from landfills
tons of CO2e emissions avoided
weighted average increase in income of waste pickers
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Techtonic: Innovations for a Circular Economy

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. Techtonic: Innovations for a Circular Economy is looking for 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.


Techtonic - Innovations in Circular Economy

Techtonic Innovations in Circular Economy: Social Alpha, in collaboration with the H&M Foundation (H&MF) for the Saamuhika Shakti initiative and the JSW Foundation (JSWF) have committed to supporting start-ups in waste management scale and build sustainable models. This partnership is designed to address the most intractable challenges that early-stage start-ups in the sector face – lack of capital and inability to scale to new geographies.


Techtonic – Innovations in Waste Management

Techtonic – Innovations in Waste Management is a nationwide grand challenge to identify and curate locally designed, disruptive innovations addressing problems in waste management and improving the livelihoods of waste pickers. The Accelerator provides start-ups support with fully paid pilots, expert guidance, go to market strategy, ecosystem access and an opportunity to pitch for seed capital investment.