New Delhi, India
GOONJ is an NGO working on issues of urban waste and social distribution. It believes in utilizing vast quantities of untapped old and waste material in middle class households and re-using it to create second-hand products.
GOONJ is converting the charitable act of giving clothes into a development resource in rural areas, focusing on receiver's dignity instead of donor's pride. In doing so, GOONJ fosters civic participation and contributes to the emergence of a parallel economy not based on money but on trash. GOONJ uses the transformation process of old material as a tool to bring social issues into light and thus opens the way for mind changes. GOONJ cooperates with over 250 grassroots organizations and is already reaching parts of 21 Indian states.
The project forms a creative and locally embedded workplace in Delhi and demonstrates the importance of more sustainable forms of production and consumption.
This project was awarded the 'Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award' in 2014. Learn more about the award.
Background and objectives
GOONJ's objective is to bring clothing, considered as a basic need but unadressed issue, on top of the development agenda. The organisation fosters rural volunteerism as a mean for villagers to solve their own problems. Urban waste is seen as a development resource for villages.
GOONJ's objectives include:
- Adding value to waste material.
- Increasing the level of employment in villages, especially for women.
- Fostering civic participation in urban and rural India
- Organizing capacity building activities for organizations and people.
- Bringing ignored and taboo subjects to light.
- Preventing landfills pollution through collecting and reusing material.
The material left at GOONJ drop-in centers is sorted at a facility run by the group at Madanpur-Khadarpur village in Delhi's South-east.
GOONJ works with five different types of resources:
1. Ready to Use material: Clothes are sorted and assembled into complete sets. Based on geographical and cultural needs, the items are then dispatched in India. Under the Cloth for Work initiative, the benefits are used for village development activities like the building of new schools.
2. School Material: School uniforms are packed and dispatched based on matching needs in terms of numbers, size and colours. Uniforms are given to kids under the "School to School" initiative as a reward for maintaining hygiene, punctuality, discipline.
3. Washable/Repairable: Actions on clothes include washing, changing zip/elastic, repairing collar etc. It creates employment for many people and keeps clothing at a minimal cost.
4. New/Export Surplus: Relatively new and best clothes are taken out separately. Export surplus is sorted in different categories (for villages, urban markets or as resource for making new products). Complete sets of male/female clothes along with bed sheets, blankets are used to support marriage in poor families. Export surplus are used by GOONJ for raising funds.
5. Waste material: the otherwise unusable materials like torn clothes, used books and notebooks are transformed into various usable products through the imagination of their workers.
GOONJ deals with about 1000 tonnes of solid waste annually letting nothing to end-up into landfills.
Recycled products include:
- School bags sponsored by urban people for rural kids.
- Sanitary pads produced for rural women under the 'My Pad' program.
- Mats sold in urban markets.
- Bags that are developed out of waste material to raise funds for GOONJ.
- Baby beds – made of ultimate waste, especially in colder regions to save them from winters.
Some products are also sold through various channels to generate funds that help sustain the organization.
Financing and resources
GOONJ uses old material to save money on infrastructure and furniture. No money is spent on advertising and PR either. Goonj's strategy is involving stakeholders to get subsidies on transportation, printing etc.
The organisation has an annual budget of approximately INR 4.00 crore (USD 600.000).
GOONJ has a team of 180 people with 11 offices, supported by thousands of volunteers across India.
Results and impacts
Madanpur-Khadarpur village is a conservative-marginalized neighborhood that has seen positive attitududinal changes after the facility was set-up there. The nesting of the facility inside the community ensures local employment opportunities for women in the area. The sorted material is then utilized as a parallel currency for development programs in rural areas like 'Cloth for work', whereby hundreds of grassroots programs like digging of wells, sanitation drives, making of bamboo bridges are undertaken through partnerships with local NGO's.
Barriers and challenges
Main challenges that GOONJ is facing include:
- Increasing costs of transportation and rentals for storage space.
- Need for technology to optimize processes.
- Documentation of knowledge, new ideas and innovative approaches.
- Mismatches in the supply of specific material to target groups.
- Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award 2014 Delhi, p.30