- Textile waste is the third largest source of solid waste in India, mostly from household sources, while India’s plastic waste has more than doubled in the last five years.
- Mindful of leading more sustainable lives, some parents in India have launched ventures that promotes exchange and reuse of pre-owned children’s items.
- Women and children’s wear leads the market growth in India and the children’s apparel market is set to grow at a rate of 5.6 percent between 2022 and 2027.
Children outgrow their things—clothes, shoes, accessories, even toys—fast. At times, within one season. To keep up with this change, some parents often buy new products, while discarding old items. This in turn increases waste. Textile waste is the third largest source of solid waste in India, mostly from household sources. India’s plastic waste has more than doubled in the last five years.
Mindful of leading more sustainable lives, some parents are swapping pre-owned children’s products. A few parents have now also launched ventures that promote sustainability while decluttering closets, without compromising on their children’s need for age-appropriate products. These ventures are getting a good response across the country, with sellers transitioning into buyers and vice-versa. This in turn, increases the lifecycle of products and avoids wastage.
India is one of the largest contributors in the apparel-retail sector globally and is becoming a hub for children’s apparels. A report co-produced by the Indian Chamber of Commerce says that women and children’s wear leads the market growth. Further, according to IMARC Group, a market research agency, the children’s apparel market in India is set to grow at a rate of 5.6 percent between 2022 and 2027, even as other industries continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While these trends are mirroring the choices parents make for their children, it also means that the amount of waste generated as a result of fast fashion is increasing. According to the Indian Textile Journal, it is estimated that more than one million tonnes of textile is thrown away as waste every year, with most of this coming from household sources.
Anshu Gupta, founder of Goonj, a non-profit that focuses on clothing as a basic need and provides disaster relief, said, “Any effort, whether it’s for profit or non-profit, that promotes re-use and a circular economy, is a great initiative.” Textile waste in India, said Gupta, is emerging as a major concern. Goonj, in one of its initiatives, recycles old clothes and other textile waste into sanitary napkins. “Optimum utilisation of materials and extending the life-cycle of a product benefits people as well as the environment.”
Seeking a solution that benefits all
Twice Treasured is a community-driven platform, where parents can sell and buy pre-loved products for their children. It was co-founded by Divya Sukumar, Vaibhavi and Tripti Chodia. Sukumar says that the main aim behind this venture was to increase the lifecycle of products by keeping them in rotation among parents and their children, instead of unnecessary waste generation.
“Through our venture we have instilled in them [the children] the concept that not everything new needs to come from a store, nor does everything need to end up in a dustbin later,” she adds. “We must strive to reuse products.”
The idea came to them during the COVID-19 lockdown, and they wanted to do something for new mothers to access children’s products. “Platforms such as Amazon were not delivering goods at that time and we needed things like diapers desperately,” Sukumar says.
When they spoke, they realised that that whether it was a necessity or for entertainment, they could procure these products from other mothers. “But we were not confident how other mothers would respond to pre-loved things,” says Vaibhavi. “So, more than anything else, we wanted to normalise getting pre-owned products.”
Breaking the stigma around pre-owned
It was a similar situation that inspired another mother-duo, Nandita Kodesia and Bhavna Dayal, to start their venture, Tiny Things. “Many clothes that Bhavna’s sister-in-law would get from the U.S., would either be small in size, or the children would outgrow them soon, sometimes within a season,” Kodesia, a journalist, says, adding that they realised there was a need for a platform which could circulate products that had barely been used among like-minded mothers.
Kodesia and Dayal also faced the challenge of “normalising pre-owned” materials. “Our main building block is trust—that the product would be rotated among parents who want the best for the child” says Kodesia. “But, to further ensure quality and hygiene standards, we first get the products from the seller to our warehouse, where we do a thorough quality check, refurbish if required, clean and sanitise it, and then send it to the buyer.”
The prices of pre-owned products are decided after they are filtered through various parameters, such as quality, usage, and brand. “We have a lot of takers in the metro cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi — which was a surprise,” she adds. “Initially, we thought the procurement would be mostly from the tier-1 cities, because access to products is more, which would then be passed to tier-2 cities. But, car seats, strollers, activity games, cots — they are going pan-India, with southern India being more open than the rest.”
To understand just how efficient such platforms can be in increasing the life cycle of a product, Shradha Virani from Sold Resold says, “The Mamaroo (electric rocker for babies) in my home was used by my son and daughter before being passed on to two other friends, who then gave it to another friend. Five children had already used it before it was sold and then re-sold two more times through our platform.”
Conscious in their mantra of exemplifying sustainability, Sold Resold, which is one of the earlier entrants in this still niche market, ensures that they do not use bubble wrap while packaging the products, “unless it is fragile”. “Sustainability is big overseas and there’s no reason why it should not be here as well,” says Virani.
Ravina Singh is a mother of two and has been using these platforms after her friends recommended it. “These platforms are helping us keep a balance between aspiration and affordability. More importantly, they are helping us introduce our children to the concept of sustainability.”
Banner image: Once children outgrow their their things, such as toys, parents often have to discard or buy new ones which leads to waste generation. Photo by Fotokannan/Wikimedia Commons.