“India is growing and so are the mountains of waste its cities and villages are producing. The composition of waste is also witnessing a major shift as the use of plastics and paper grow with the rise of the middle class and a consumerist culture.”
– Excerpt from Waste Generation in India, 2016, Report by CSE
According a news report published in 2017, India generates 100,000 metric tonnes of solid waste every day. Waste is so overwhelmingly visible in India that you might feel there is no way to get rid of it all.
Right from small towns to large cities, cheap mass manufactured goods have invaded our markets. Things that were never packaged 20 years ago now come wrapped in shiny plastic. Our increased consumption is creating a massive waste problem. Most of us don’t know how to deal with this waste.
According to a report in Down to Earth magazine published in June 2018, an average Indian consumes 11 kg of plastic per year and this number is estimated to rise in the coming years. Also, 43 per cent of India’s plastics are used in packaging and are single-use plastic.
Single-use plastic is used widely in the form of disposable bags, bottles, plates, bowls, cups, spoons, forks, straws. Plastic packaging used for groceries also creates piles of waste. If you want to move towards zero waste, refuse disposables and replace them with a set of reusables – cloth bags, produce bags, metal/glass water bottles, stainless steel cups, plates, cutlery, steel dabbas & glass jars.
Zero Waste Living in Delhi-NCR
Delhi generates around 8,300 metric tonnes of waste every day. The city has 3 huge landfills which are overflowing with trash. They catch fire from time to time and pollute the air and groundwater.
The landfills are filled with solid waste from households, shops, small businesses, offices, institutions, construction sites and many other places. This waste is a mix of single use plastic & plastic packaging, paper, metal, glass, e-waste & discarded food scraps (which release methane in landfills).
You can easily reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill every day by embracing a zero waste approach. You can start with something as simple as making your groceries less wasteful.
Where to shop for zero waste groceries in Delhi NCR?
It is totally possible to shop for food in Delhi without bringing a single plastic bag home. There are no “zero waste stores” in Delhi like in the US or some European countries. But zero waste options are present in the form of local kirana stores, sabzi mandi, wholesale markets, street vendors, small stores and even farmers’ markets.
Khari Baoli (Old Delhi) – This market is a zero waster’s dream. It is Asia’s biggest wholesale spice market which has been in business since the 17th century! You can find whole spices, unrefined rock salt, nuts, dried fruits, pickles and all kinds of Ayurvedic herbs in bulk here.
Bhogal – There are a many shops on Samman Bazar Road which sell grains, lentils, beans, dried fruits, nuts, savoury snacks and spices in bulk. You can go to Garg and Sons and the whole row of stores next to Mangat Ram & Sons. There are also 2 spice sellers on the same street who sell a variety of bulk spices on a cart.
Amar Colony weekly market – This market happens every Saturday from 3:30pm to 10pm. It is called Shani bazaar. You can find amla, soapnuts, shikakai, spices (powdered or whole), pasta and nuts here.
Kotla Mubarakpur – In this wholesale market, you can buy everything from dry fruits to leaf plates in bulk.
Nizammudin (the lane outside the Inayat Khan ki Dargah) – You can find many kinds of rice here.
Savitri Nagar – Here you can get lentils and spices (call 011-26014432), macaroni (near the chakki), namkeen (opposite the chakki).
CR Park – For tea, go to Shiv Shakti Agencies, DDA Shop No. 139, CSC Market No. 2, First Floor, CR Park.
Mayur Vihar – You can find unpackaged biscuits and rusk at Sapra Biscuits (please contact Satbir Singh at 8010549836 in advance).
Ponsangipur – This is a huge bulk market in Janakpuri, West Delhi. You can get edible oils in cans and even bulk corn flakes here. On the streets, you can find vendors selling bulk biscuits and namkeen as well. Sanjay Store sells bulk spices and Mittal Store sells bulk tea, sugar, grains and lentils.
Hastsal market – This is a wholesale market for bulk shopping near Uttam Nagar & Dwarka in West Delhi.
Dwarka – In sector 6 market, you can get these items package free:
- Biscuits & rusk – Call this shop at 9717863120 and place your order days in advance.
- Namkeen, nuts, dry fruits – Sindhi namkeen shops (there is one in sector 10 too).
- Paneer, ghee and curd – you can find these at Punjab Dairy. Also, you can go to Aggarwal Paneer Bhandar, which is at Palam crossing under the Dwarka flyover.
- Freshly baked unsliced bread – Puffs and Cakes shop (contact 011-25080816 or 8745048745). You need to inform them in advance if you want unpackaged items.
- Wheat flour, bird feed, other lentils – Flour mill behind Arson Opticals.
Tugalpur market – This is a wholesale market behind Ansal Plaza in Greater Noida.
A few places that sell unpackaged organic food:
Dukaan (shop with no name) – a small and mostly bulk, fully organic shop located inside a medical clinic. Here you can buy all kinds of dals, masalas, flours, cold pressed cooking oils (in your own container) leaf wrapped neem soap & tooth powder. Address: 2nd Floor (Room 207), D-59 Defence Colony. Hours: 10.30 am to 5 pm (best to call before coming). Contact Person: Saleem 9871246056 (WhatsApp), 9910706713 (call).
Nature’s Soul – a family-run store that sells organic products. They stock vegan and gluten free cookies, muesli and cakes which you can buy in your own container. They also sell almond milk, vegan yoghurt, fermented veggies, kombucha and water kefir in returnable glass containers. They have handmade body and laundry soaps packaged in paper. The shop also has a small takeaway corner where they make fresh salads, bowls and smoothies which you can get in your own container. Address: 16, ground floor, main market, Defence Colony (next to Sagar). Phone number -099102 04633. Website | Instagram | Facebook.
Organic German Bakeshop – A bakery in Main Bazaar, Paharhanj that supplies freshly baked breads (packed in paper) & nut and seed butters (glass jars). Website.
Organic Milk: Rinku delivers organic milk to your doorstep. You can reach him at 9711669926.
If you don’t have access to a wholesale market or small stores, fret not. There are a handful of supermarkets which do stock food in bulk.
More – They stock lentils in bulk. More supermarket, Soul city Mall,Hotel Radisson blue, Sec-13, Dwarka.
Hypercity – They sell grains, lentils, sugar, fruits and veggies in bulk. Address – Garden Galleria Mall, Plot no A2, Sector 38A, Next to Great India Palace Mall, Near sector 18 Metro station, Noida.
If you are located in south Delhi, you could go to The Earth Collective farmers market in Asiad Village on a Sunday from 8:30 am to 11:30 am.
Two vendors at this market – Beejom, a farm in Noida and Desi Utpad by Jaya sell fruits, vegetables, grains, lentils and spices in bulk. Make sure to carry your reusable bags and bring a big tote/basket. Some vendors sell freshly made breakfast too which you can request in your own lunch box.
How to compost at home in Delhi?
Most neighbourhoods in Delhi do not have a composting facility. If you live in a small space like a flat, you can compost your kitchen waste in matkas (clay pots). Read how to compost at home in India (under Rs.1,000).
If you already have spare matkas, buckets or drums, you can simply drill holes in them and start composting right away.
For package free coco peat, go to Andheria. You can call at 9810888537 for more information.
Where to buy zero waste cleaning supplies in Delhi?
Soapnuts – Soapnuts are called reetha in Hindi and you can find them in almost all neighbourhood markets. Check the local grocery stores, shops that sell puja ka samaan and Ayurvedic shops in your neighbourhood. You can find them at:
- Khari Baoli in old Delhi
- Garg & Sons, Samman Bazar Road in Bhogal
- Govindpuri market ( +91 9810345912)
- Savitri Nagar, near the chakki (from the Shiv Mandir, ask for the chakki and check the shops in that line 5 meters ahead)
Baking Soda – Check the local baking supplies shop in your area for baking soda. They might have a bigger bag from which you can get some in your container. You can buy baking soda in bulk from Pigmento in Jangpura Extension.
Coconut husk – Coconut husk was the traditional way of scrubbing dishes. If you want to try this out, find vendors/shops selling coconuts in your neighbourhood market. Ask them if you can have the husk and chances are that they’ll happily give a bagful to you.
Ash – For ash, go to the presswaala. This is a person who has a small shed in a neighbourhood who irons clothes. They mostlyuse a coal powered iron and usually throw away the ash at the end of the day. You can rescue the ash and use it as a dishwashing powder.
Loofah – A loofah is normally used for exfoliating the skin but it can be useful for scrubbing dishes and all sorts of surfaces. You can find them at:
- Khari Baoli in old Delhi
- Market Number 2, CR Park
If you know a person who has a loofah tree, ask them if they can spare some for you.
Where can you get your zero waste kit / basics in Delhi?
Lunch boxes, bottles and cutlery made out of steel – You can find all this at any store that sells kitchenware in the nearest market to your house. If you are in south Delhi, you can go to National Steel Bhandar in Lajpat Nagar.
Glass bottles/jars – If you’re looking for glass bottles and jars in a large quantity at wholesale prices, in south Delhi you can go to Pigmento in Jangpura Extension. In old Delhi, you can go to Tilak Bazaar in Khari Baoli, Chandi Chowk.
Handkerchiefs and cloth napkins – If you have a sewing machine, sew yourself some hankies from old fabric lying at home. If you don’t know how to sew, take the fabric to your local tailor. Brand new hankies can be found in each and every market of Delhi. You can either buy them from a street vendor or a store.
Where can you get zero waste snacks in Delhi?
Weekly markets – There’s one day of the day when most neighbourhoods have an open market where vendors set up stalls in the evening. This is when you can buy dry fruits, nuts, chana (roasted chickpeas), peanuts, murmura (rice puffs) in bulk.
Most street snacks are served in paper bowls and plates lined with a silver foil and a thin layer of plastic. Refuse these disposables and take your own container & spoon.
Local sweet shops – Every neighbourhood has a local mithai (sweet) shop. It sells samosas, kachoris and pakoras (savoury snacks) in the evenings and a mind-boggling range of sweets. They’re very likely to pack the hot food first in a paper bag then put it in another plastic or polypropylene bag. They usually pack the sweets in a cardboard/paper box laminated with plastic.
To avoid waste, just take your own box and get them to put your food in it. If you can’t fit the stuff in your box, opt for the paper bag and skip the plastic bag.
Hot Chips – Some markets might have a shop called Hot Chips. They stock all kinds of chips (potato, sweet potato, bitter gourd), savoury snacks and even sweets in bulk. All you have to do is take your box or a paper bag and ask them to fill the quantity you want. There’s one such shop called South Indian Hot Chips on Central Road, Bhogal.
Where can you recycle in Delhi?
It is a challenge to find a recycler in Delhi who will tell where each and every recyclable item ends up. If you really want to make sure your stuff is actually recycled, hoard it until you find a true recycler.
The local kabaadiwaala – The local kabaadiwaalas (scrap dealers) usually go around on a bicycle with a bunch of jute bags strapped on the back of the cycle. The only way to get hold of them is when you hear them shouting ‘kabaadiwaala’ loudly on the street or if you bump into one while walking. They’ll take old newspapers, books and plastic bottles, weigh them on an old school scale and pay you for it.
Where can you buy zero waste clothes, accessories & books in Delhi?
Sisters of the People: Thrift & Book Shop – Right next to the the Moolchand metro station in South Delhi, there’s a place called Lajpat Bhawan. This large compound houses a thrift store with pre-loved clothes, jewellery, knick-knacks etc and a bookstore which sells all kinds of pre-loved books (fiction, non-fiction etc).
Sarojini Nagar – Here you can find many stalls selling second-hand clothes like sweaters, coats, jackets, shorts, shirts and pyjamas.
Raghubir Nagar Women Market – Located in West Delhi, this is a huge market for second hand/pre-loved clothes which is completely run by women. The market begins at 2 am and goes on until 8 am. So, if you want clothes or household goods, get you super early and head here.
Zero Waste in Himachal Pradesh
This beautiful mountainous state was the first state in India to ban the use & sale of plastic bags back in 2003. When you go grocery shopping in Himachal Pradesh, the shopkeeper often packs your fruits & veggies in bags made out of old newspaper. However, plastic has not disappeared completely. Most shops still stock polypropylene or non-woven carry bags, which actually are made out of plastic!
So if you live in Himachal Pradesh or are simply visiting, be sure to carry all your reusables.
Zero Waste Travel & Living in McLeodganj/Dharamshala
The small town of Dharamshala is a popular destination for tourists and travellers from all over India and the world. As you walk around, you’ll see quite a lot of garbage down the hillsides (mainly plastic bottles, packets of snacks etc). You can easily reduce your waste in McLeodganj & Dharamshala by taking simple steps.
- Refill your water bottle – You can refill your bottle with filtered water at these places – Dalai Lama Temple, LHA on Temple Road, Environmental Education Centre and Nick’s Italian Kitchen & Green Hotel on Bhasgu Road and Trimurti Terrace Cafe, House Om Tara & Divine Nature in Upper Bhagsu. You’ll have to pay Rs.5-10 for the refill.
- Buy package free fruits and vegetables – You can find vendors/shops selling fruits and veggies on Jogiwara Road and Temple Road.
- Peanut butter – You can buy locally made peanut butter in glass jar at the Osho store at the beginning of Dharamkot road.
- Bread – McLeodganj is full of bakeries. You can buy freshly baked bread and desserts at Tibet Bakery on Bhagsu Road or any of the bakeries on Jogiwara Road.
Kotwali Bazaar (Lower Dharamshala)
- Dry food – To buy grains, lentils, beans and spices in bulk, head over to Kotwali Bazaar in lower Dharamshala. There are many shops here and you can easily spot a bulk store from outside.
- Reusable bottles, lunch boxes and cutlery – you can find these at shops that sell kitchenware on Gurudwara Road.
Waste management in Dharamshala
Clean Upper Dharamshala Programme
This organisation in McLeodganj helps locals segregate and recycle their waste. They also organise mass public cleanups. Their green workers collect waste directly from households. They recycle paper into beautiful handmade notebooks, lamps, albums, photo frames and pen stands which are sold at their Green Shop on Bhagsu Road. Website | Facebook.
Waste Warriors and their volunteers clean up the Triund trail and the Bhagsu waterfall every week. They also do weekly community clean-ups, install dustbins, run a door-to-door waste collection in Bhagsunag. They have also set up a waste drop off point at Galu. Website | Facebook.
Zero Waste in Uttarakhand
In early 2017, Uttarakhand High Court issued Guidelines on Solid Waste Management. Whether you live in Uttarakhand or you’re doing a yoga course in Rishikesh, you can take simple steps to reduce your waste rather than waiting for these guidelines to get implemented.
This section covers Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand and two popular tourist destinations – Rishikesh & Corbett.
Zero Waste Living in Dehradun
Dehradun produces a whopping 350 metric tonnes of waste each day out of which a daily average of 20-30% remains unattended.
To find like-minded locals and information about buying in bulk in Dehradun, you can join the Do No Trash Facebook group.
Waste Management in Dehradun
Waste Warriors – Waste Warriors have cleaned up thousands of kilos of garbage from areas like Anekant Palace, Astley Hall, Jakhan, Jakhan Forest and Dalanwala. They clean stretches of the Rajpur Road daily and do a weekly composting workshop in Gandhi Park. They also run a weekly waste collection service in 8 villages in the area. Facebook.
Zero waste Travel & Living in Rishikesh
Rishikesh is located right on the banks of the Ganga river. If you’re a yoga student/backpacker, please consider creating less waste. Here’s how you can do it:
- Refill your water bottle – You can refill your water bottle for free at Bunk Stay hostel if you’re a guest. You can also refill your bottle at most cafes on request. They might or might not charge you. Many tourist souvenir shops in Rishikesh also sell copper bottles which can be reused.
- Fruits and vegetables – You can easily buy these from vendors/shops on both sides of Lakshman Jhula and Tapovan.
Waste management in Rishikesh
Waste management in Corbett
Waste Warriors Corbett – They collect and manage waste from households, shops, schools, hotels, forest rest houses and even temples in the area around the Corbett Tiger Reserve. Facebook.
Zero Waste in Jammu & Kashmir
The two capitals of this region – Srinagar & Jammu, produce a total of 770 tonne of solid waste every day. A majority of the waste goes to landfills but some of it also gets dumped near forested areas because there is no infrastructure to deal with it. If you’re heading to this region for a pilgrimage or a holiday, please make sure you minimise your waste and keep the Himalayas clean.
Zero Waste Travel & Living in Leh
A news report reveals that there is a huge mound of garbage outside Leh in Bomb Guard, Diskit Tsal. Ladakh has a very sensitive ecosystem so please make sure you:
- Refill your water bottle – 30,000 single-use plastic bottles are dumped in Leh every day. The best thing you can do is to carry a reusable bottle and get it refilled at local cafes, dhabas, restaurants and home stays.
There are two Dzomsa shops – one on Fort Road and another on Changspa road. In these shops, you can fill your water bottle, drink locally made apricot & seabuckthorn juice, buy dried apricots & nuts packed in paper and apricot kernel butter in glass bottles here. They also provide an eco-friendly laundry service here.
- Buy package free fruits and vegetables – You can buy these Leh Main Bazaar or in the old town in Leh.
Here’s hoping this Zero Waste Guide to North India will help you prepare and participate in the upcoming Zero Waste International Week. If you have any questions, comments or inputs that will enrich this guide, write to [email protected].
A big thanks to Harshita Gupta, Priyanka Jain Nagpal and members of the Zero Waste Lifestyle-India for their inputs.