The 'Return of Waste' to Lower-Income Indian Communities from Garments After Festivals

The 'Return of Waste' to Lower-Income Indian Communities from Garments After Festivals

The Environmental Impact of Indian Festivals

Indian holidays and festivals are known for their grandeur, vibrant celebrations, and cultural significance. However, amidst the joy and merriment, there is a hidden environmental concern that often goes unnoticed or undiscussed - the 'return of waste' to lower-income Indian communities from Indian garments after festivals.

Due to rapid urbanization, economic growth, and higher rates of urban consumption, India is among the world’s top 10 countries generating municipal solid waste. According to a report by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), India generates over 62 million tons (MT) of waste in a year. Only 43 MT of total waste generated gets collected, with 12 MT being treated before disposal, and the remaining 31 MT simply discarded in wasteyards. Most of the waste generated remains untreated and even unaccounted for. Inadequate waste collection, transport, treatment, and disposal have become major causes for environmental and public health concerns in the country.

The world of Solid Waste Management in India is expected to grow 7.5% by 2026. With the ever-increasing population and economy, I think this number is a bit lackluster, and we as a society can contribute to drastically make a difference for the lives of our future children. 

The Tradition of Festive Clothing

During festivals like Diwali, Holi, and Navratri, it is customary for Indians to wear new clothes as a symbol of prosperity and auspiciousness. This tradition has been deeply ingrained in the Indian culture for centuries.

With the increasing influence of the fashion industry, there has been a surge in the demand for trendy and fashionable festive clothing. Many Indians now purchase new garments every year to keep up with the latest trends, resulting in a massive environmental impact.

 

A woman seemingly dancing covered in colorful powder for Holi festival.

The Dark Side of Festive Clothing

Unfortunately, the production and disposal of festive clothing have severe consequences for the environment and the communities involved. The garments are often made from synthetic materials, which are derived from non-renewable resources and require energy-intensive manufacturing processes.

After the festivals, these garments are discarded, leading to enormous amounts of textile waste. This waste is often dumped in landfills or burned, contributing to air and soil pollution. In lower-income Indian communities, where waste management infrastructure is lacking, the burden of this waste falls disproportionately on the residents.

Impacts on Lower-Income Indian Communities

Lower-income Indian communities, already struggling with numerous challenges, bear the brunt of the 'return of waste' from festive clothing. These communities often lack access to proper waste management systems, leading to the accumulation of textile waste in their surroundings.

The textile waste not only pollutes the environment but also poses health risks to the residents. Burning the discarded garments releases toxic fumes, contributing to air pollution and respiratory ailments. Additionally, the accumulation of textile waste leads to unsanitary conditions, attracting pests and creating breeding grounds for diseases.

 

An Indian woman walking infront of India's largest mountain of waste.

Addressing the Issue

Recognizing the environmental and social impact of the 'return of waste,' it is crucial to take steps to address this issue:

  • Sustainable Production: Encourage the use of eco-friendly and organic materials in the production of festive clothing. Promote sustainable fashion practices and support local artisans who use traditional techniques.
  • Recycling and Upcycling: Raise awareness about the importance of recycling and upcycling garments. Encourage individuals to donate or repurpose their festive clothing to reduce waste.
  • Waste Management Infrastructure: Invest in waste management infrastructure in lower-income communities, providing them with access to proper waste disposal systems.
  • Education and Awareness: Educate the public about the environmental impact of festive clothing and the importance of responsible consumption. Encourage conscious choices and a shift towards sustainable fashion.

One of the most important ways to address this issue as a consumer is to support sustainable Indian companies that promote eco-friendly practices.

 

Here are some sustainable Indian companies to purchase from:

 

Naina and Noor (nainaandnoor.com): This sustainable Indian company buys back Indian garments and turns them into accessories, like scrunchies and bags. By repurposing old garments, they reduce textile waste and promote sustainable fashion practices.

 

An image of the website 'Naina and Noor'.

 

Doodlage (doodlage.in): This sustainable Indian brand creates clothing using upcycled fabrics and promotes zero-waste fashion. They also use eco-friendly materials like organic cotton and Tencel.

 

A screenshot of the website for Doodlage.

 

No Nasties (nonasties.in): This sustainable Indian brand creates fair-trade clothing using organic cotton and promotes ethical and sustainable fashion practices. They also have a zero-waste policy and use eco-friendly packaging.

 

A screenshot of the website for No Nasties

A Call for Change

The 'return of waste' to lower-income Indian communities from Indian garments after festivals is a pressing issue that demands attention. By adopting sustainable practices, promoting responsible consumption, and investing in waste management infrastructure, we can mitigate the environmental and social impacts of this tradition.

It is our collective responsibility to preserve our cultural heritage while safeguarding our environment for future generations. Let us embrace eco-conscious choices and work towards a more sustainable and inclusive future.

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