Recykal Foundation: Bridging the Gap to transform the Lives of 1 Million Safai Mitras in India


Hyderabad: Recykal Foundation, aims to extend multifaceted support to Safai Mitras by creating an enabling ecosystem, unveiled its plans to transform the lives of one million Safai Mitras by 2025. By redefining the title to Safai Mitras, the Foundation has initiated a narrative change to recognize and dignify the contribution of waste workers across the country. The Foundation’s Unnati SETU initiative aims to drive social and economic upliftment of Safai Mitras in India.

The Indian waste management system is highly fragmented and unorganised with a varied range of players. At the bottom of this entire value chain, are the Safai Mitras —waste pickers, processors, collectors and sanitation workers—who are the key facilitators of this sector. These individuals live under extremely miserable conditions with bare minimum incomes to sustain themselves and their families. 70 per cent of the Safai Mitras are women, and there is a lot of mental and physical exploitation that makes it an unsafe working environment for women. These women are also underpaid compared to their male counterparts. Child labour is prevalent in this community, and often young kids are working in hazardous conditions causing severe health ailments. Due to the lack of societal recognition, this community continues to be neglected and caught in a vicious cycle. The Recykal Foundation has been founded to transform this unaddressed segment of our society by recognising and dignifying their contribution.

Speaking on the vision and role of the Foundation, Viiveck Verma, Chief Impact Officer said, “India generates 65 million tonnes of waste each year and the Safai Mitras form the backbone of waste management in India, who bear the brunt of this magnitude of waste. Our goal is to improve the livelihood of 1 million Safai Mitras by 2025 by building a bridge (setu) to economic and social development. This can only be achieved with an industry-wide collaborative approach. The Foundation seeks to catalyse various stakeholders in the waste management ecosystem to drive this revolutionary change. Under its Unnati SETU (Social & Economic Transformative Upliftment) initiative, Recykal Foundation has impacted the lives of 4000 Safai Mitras by distributing one meal a day, every day since Jan 26, 2022, in Gudimalkapur, Hyderabad.”

The Recykal Foundation has adopted four cornerstones, that will be instrumental in achieving the mission of transforming the lives of Safai Mitras:

  • Enabling a Circular Economy: Initiate change right from the consumer by facilitating an ecosystem for responsible disposal through infrastructure establishment and policy advisory.
  • Recognition and Inclusion: Dignify Safai Mitras through a two-fold support process that would ensure social inclusion and strengthen their financial capacities.
  • Equal opportunities: Connecting and strengthening all ecosystem members by providing access to varied learning and working opportunities.
  • Conscious gen-next: Drive awareness events and campaigns to connect with the youth, hence building an army of aware and conscious individuals.

Key Initiatives Since its Inception

Providing holistic development: Recykal Foundation has been conducting education and health camps for the Safai Mitras and creating awareness of the importance of cleanliness by distributing safety gear that will aid these individuals.

Inclusion in the economy: The Foundation has been working with this community to help them with the creation of Government IDs and universal banking access to enable them to apply for loans and redeem various subsidies offered by the Government.

Collaboration with Swachhata Kendras: Recykal Foundation is collaborating with Government institutions to expand its Swachhta Kendras. Swacchta Kendras are centres for waste material collection and channelisation. These centres aim to direct the material toward recycling while simultaneously empowering the Safai Mitras through organised, regulated working conditions with a safe source of income

Commenting on the birth of the Foundation, Abhay Deshpande, Founder, of Recykal, said, “Recykal is Asia’s first circular economy marketplace and has been working with India’s Safai Mitras since 2016. Based on the challenges and gaps observed in the ecosystem, we initiated the Recykal Foundation to support this community which has been overlooked all these years.