Learning, Participating & Transforming: Solid Waste Management & Circular Economy Training In Mumbai

Home to about 13 million people, Mumbai is one of the most populated metropolitan areas in the world and is infamous for having some of the biggest slums in Asia.

A flawed system of solid waste disposal and management in the slum areas of Mumbai is a matter of great concern affecting the soil, air and water quality of the environment. Improper waste disposal and its treatment adversely affect the animal and marine life in the Mithi river, human health, and the local economy.

We still have to imbibe the basic truth that waste out of sight does not mean that it is no longer a threat to our health.


The Earth5R volunteers are taking a community approach to unbundle the challenge of handling the garbage in this area. Navigating the narrow lanes of these slums, a dedicated team of Earth5R citizen volunteers are bringing a behavioral change amongst the slum dwellers through their Solid Waste Management and Circular Livelihood Training.

The volunteers teach the community how to segregate wastes at source and promote recycling or reuse of segregated materials, thereby training the locales in waste management and providing livelihood opportunities from waste. 

This training provides a medium of interaction for the young and old slum dwellers alike, to discuss and address the waste challenges at both household and community level.

For instance, the organic waste generated is easier to handle because it will decompose over a period of time. It is this which gets explained by the volunteers through the process of composting to produce rich manure.

Nearly three-quarters of Mumbai’s trash is organic – mostly food waste which has a high moisture content. (Source: Hindustan Times)

The participants keenly indulge in this training and feel more responsible for their household waste management. They enjoy such activities and acknowledge this hands-on training and implement their takeaways in daily life. Seeing them, other neighbours also join and start taking action.

If only we were to segregate our biodegradable waste from the rest, this could reduce the dimensions of the challenge of solid waste management to half, at one stroke.

While one way of looking at waste is to treat it as useless material, another viewpoint is that it can be converted into a different form which can then be productively used.  The latter view treats waste as a resource.


The slum dwellers also get educated about the concept of a circular economy for livelihood. This training helps them to know some interesting ideas in order to make the best use out of waste and earn a livelihood from it.

For instance, the upcycling of waste paper into gift bags, old clothes into purses or masks, old plastic bottles as containers etc.

Integration of rag-pickers in waste management is also a crucial activity as they are involved in the collection of recyclables after segregation, thereby strengthening the local economy. 


These Earth5R volunteers are playing an important role in mobilizing the public and converting their enthusiasm into action. They first build rapport with the locals by being flexible, informal and then indulge through games, presentations, quizzes, practical examples etc. 

The communication always remains two-way as the locals also are encouraged to put forth their viewpoints and problems. 

This collective effort of Earth5R volunteers is truly commendable as slum lanes in Mumbai have now become outdoor training areas with great enthusiasm and participation from adults and kids alike. This inspiring example of driving change speaks a lot about how these actions will go a long way in building better waste management and sustainable livelihood.


Earth5R is an environmental organization from India with its head office at Mumbai. It works with the NGO sector, Companies and helps them conduct environmental Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs across India.

Earth5R specializes in circular economy based projects. Earth5R also offers short term and long term environmental courses and fellowships.

Reported by Trisha Garg, edited by Riya Dani