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Hindustan Unilever and UNDP India launch plastic circular economy project


New initiative will help create a circular economy for plastics in India by setting up material recovery facilities, promoting household segregation of waste and supporting the social inclusion of thousands of workers within the informal waste-picking sector.

Group of men and women who work in India’s informal waste sector.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) have launched a project to create a circular economy for plastic in India.

As a part of the partnership, we will help set up material recovery facilities for recycling all kinds of plastic waste along the value chain, and encourage 100,000 households to segregate their waste so it can be collected and processed more efficiently.

A key focus of the project is the social inclusion of workers within the informal waste sector – also known as waste pickers and today called Safai Saathis (invisible environmentalists) – in recognition of the critical role they play.

It will reach 20,000 Safai Saathis in major urban centres across the country, helping them get access to government welfare schemes and other assistance programmes.

The partnership is the first of its kind in India to promote the social inclusion of Safai Saathis at this scale.

The project follows a successful pilot that diverted 8,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste from landfills, established three recycling facilities in Mumbai and linked 3,300 Safai Saathis and their families to welfare schemes. Around 75% of the Safai Saathis reached through the pilot were women.

HUL Managing Director Sanjiv Mehta says: “The partnership between HUL and UNDP is a holistic and replicable model that promotes plastic circularity and collective action. The partnership will also promote the social inclusion of the invisible superheroes of our society, Safai Saathis, at scale.”

UNDP India Resident Representative Shoko Noda adds: “Plastic waste is one of the most concerning challenges of our times. The programme promotes an innovative multi-stakeholder model between municipal corporations, corporates, Safai Saathis and people to work together for cleaner and greener cities.”

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