UGC Minor Research Project in Home Science sanctioned to SVT College of Home Science (Autonomous), SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai

     ‘Profile and Problems of Collectors of Post- consumer Waste Clothing  

                       from Urban Households :  A Study in Mumbai City’

Principal Investigator: Suman Mundkur          Period: Jan. 2012- Jan. 2014

F No. 47-1829/11(WRO) dt 11 Jan 2012


With the growth in the apparel retail industry in India, large number of branded and un-branded clothing is discarded from households much earlier than its life. The used clothes are re-utilized, gifted, donated, passed on to the domestic helpers or exchanged for its value. This exchange is a unique mobile door-to-door recycling service in India by bhandivale as they are known in Mumbai. They make a living by collecting old clothing from urban households in exchange for stainless steel utensils and plastic ware. Their livelihood depends on the bartering skill. They specialize in collecting, sorting and selling clothes in the second-hand market.

The objective of this study was to understand the present socio-economic profile of bhandivale, their working conditions and identify their problems. A Descriptive Research Design was selected. Both qualitative and quantitative methodologies were used to study their background, educational level, family details and social life, income and living conditions, working conditions and the problems faced by bhandivale. The research Design made use of survey, non-participant observation, case study, oral history and narrations to elicit the data. Primary data on was collected by the use of a semi-structured Interview schedule and observation schedule. The samples were drawn through non-probability convenience sampling design using snowball technique. Purposing sampling was used subsequently for the intervention in identifying new avenues for the sale of clothes.

It was found that for generations, the Gujarati speaking Waghri  and Marathi speaking Kunchikorve and Gondhali  community have migranted to Mumbai. They have involved themselves in the redistribution of old clothes for a living. Gondhali and Kunchikorve enjoy a better educational level, higher income and better living conditions as compared to the bhandivale belonging to the Waghri. There is a large concentration of bhandivale in the Matunga and Dahravi Labour Camps while the Waghris remain scattered in pockets in various locations in the suburbs. Most of the bhandivale residing in Dharavi have benefitted by the Urban Slum Redevelopment Scheme and have given them a better standard of living.  

The increase in the high-rise residential tower apartments has to some extent changed the method of collection of clothes from the residents. The security personnel of these indirectly help in facilitating transactions for the bhandivale. There is flexibility in the pattern of exchange thus requiring a regular cash flow that is generated through sale of second-hand clothes. Direct selling of the clothes at this huge second-hand market gives a higher rate of return than selling the clothes through agents called chindhivale. Apart from these it was attempted to identify the different agents or stake holders who are vital to the bhandivale business.  

Among the several problems faced by the bhandivale, low literacy and employability have kept them from seeking jobs and participation in public life. Some bhandivale who have taken up alternate occupation alongside with the family business, has given them a better living. But they have not given up on their traditional occupation. School drop-out rate was found to be higher in Wagri children, who inevitabily got into the business at a young age.

Use of mobile phones for professional use, possession of personal assets and availability of good quality clothing for personal use and their sale have changed the socio-economic status of the bhandivale. Yet, they maintain a low profile and do not realize that they are in an occupation neither does the rest of society. The bhandivale themselves do not realize that they are important stake-holders in the recycling industry. As important contributors to the environment and mobilize solid waste in terms of surplus clothes generated from Mumbai households.

It is recommended that the bhandivale be better organized. New opening can be created to sell or buy waste clothes. As an intervention through the help of the Canara Bank it was attempted to get bhandivale of the Waghri sub caste residing in Dharavi Sion to supply good quality clothes by weight to members of the Women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs). These women are involved in stitching and selling of handbags in the Dharavi and Chembur. By   utilizing waste in the product development activities; it will help the SHGs cut down on costs of fabrics sourced from the open markets. This study would be of use to entrepreneurs and NGOs attempting to use the services of bhandivale.