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Using innovation to push social change

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“Techtonic – Innovations in Waste Management” is a nationwide challenge in India to identify and curate locally designed, disruptive innovations addressing problems in waste management and improving the livelihoods of waste pickers. India, by virtue of its population size, generates the most waste in the world. How can we create value out of all this waste and move the needle towards a circular economy? Is there also a way to support the heroes of waste management – the informal waste picker community?

It’s a fact. In order for the planet to cope we need to look at waste as something valuable. And to exponentially reduce the burden on landfills, we need innovative solutions to create an efficient supply chain and maximize the value of different waste streams. That is why we joined hands with Social Alpha and launched a nationwide groundbreaking innovation challenge called Techtonic – Innovations in Waste Management.

Through Techtonic we aim to create an enabling ecosystem stack for innovators and entrepreneurs developing waste management solutions. The focus is on:

  • Supply chains efficiencies
  • Logistics traceability
  • Waste to value systems. 

Five selected winners are joining the Social Alpha Waste Innovations Accelerator and receive support in their lab-to-market journey. The Accelerator is supported by H&M Foundation by USD 1 million USD. Social Alpha is matching this sum by investing another USD 1 million in the top three innovations in which they see the greatest potential.

“With H&M Foundation’s entrepreneurial heritage and spirit, we see it as both essential and inspirational to use technology and innovation to create social change.

Karl-Johan Persson, board member of H&M Foundation.

“With H&M Foundation’s entrepreneurial heritage and spirit, we see it as both essential and inspirational to use technology and innovation to create social change. New ideas are needed for positive development, and waste management and material recycling are fundamental components of a circular economy. We are happy to support this innovation challenge and are excited to see what impact it will have,” says says Karl-Johan Persson, board member of H&M Foundation.

Waste - plastic bottle

Why India?

Techtonic – Innovations in Waste Management has been announced in view of the rising amounts of waste generated from the rapid urbanization in India.

According to the World Bank, India is the largest producer of waste in the world owing to its population size. Lack of proper waste management has led to cities grappling with overflowing landfills, which are hotspots of greenhouse gas emissions, oceans filling up with plastics and leachate from landfills leaking into the soil and groundwater. 

E-waste and plastic waste have become lucrative with higher recovery and recycling rates, thanks to a policy push. But this silver lining comes with an ominous cloud as there is a focus on waste that fetches higher returns, neglecting other forms of waste. We address this void when searching for technological innovations that create value and transform even low value waste streams, such as multi-layered plastics and textile waste, into business opportunities.

In solidarity with waste pickers

Being a cornerstone of the waste management in India, the waste picker community provide essential services and drive climate action by reducing the burden on the landfills. Despite this, they struggle to make a stable income that is enough to fulfil their daily needs. The ultimate aim of Techtonic is therefore also to increase income opportunities for waste pickers.

The innovations challenge is part of a multi-stakeholder collaboration where H&M Foundation addresses improvement in the quality of life of waste pickers in Bangalore, India. The initiative, called Saamuhika Shakthi, is unique in the way that it takes a holistic approach to improve the living conditions of waste pickers and support them in various aspects by working with different partners from different sectors.

Project Specifics

  • Total Donation: 10 million SEK
  • Program Period: 20202023
  • Countries: India
  • Focus Areas: Inclusive Societies
  • Partners: Social Alpha

About Social Alpha

Social Alpha’s mission is to drive economic growth, social justice and climate action through the power of entrepreneurship and market-creating innovations. Social Alpha is focused on catalysing entrepreneurship for impact and provides critical technology and business incubation support to mission-driven founders through its product innovation labs and venture acceleration framework. Since its inception in 2016, Social Alpha has nurtured 150+ start-ups, making 40+ seed investments and 3 exits.

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