Circularity in India

With the help of our partner Quicksand, we’ve put together a brief summary of the difference that circular design could make in India. Scroll on to take a closer look at the challenges and opportunities facing this region.

A fragmented transition

Circularity is not a new idea in the Indian ecosystem. In fact, the country is known for its frugal innovation and its rich history of makers and tinkerers. But where traditional practices often embraced the values of circularity, contemporary ones usually neglect them. The current landscape is fragmented, held back by disorganised policies and the lack of a cohesive vision.


But wherever there is a problem, there is an opportunity for change. India’s rapidly growing economy is now at a crossroads. How could creatives help balance the adverse effects of urbanisation and industrialisation, by moving society towards circular products, systems and services? What would it take to shift the focus: from tending to certain parts of the value chain to tracing a holistic journey that encompasses production, usage and disposal?

Local Insights

Knowing One’s Food

Traditionally, Indian households produce little to no food waste. Kitchen scraps usually found new life as mixed dishes like chorchori, and at the end of the week, leftover rice would be fermented while vegetable peels became condiments. An intuitive understanding of what was being consumed allowed households to make informed and creative decisions that reduced waste significantly. Unfortunately, a growing distance between urban consumers and food has led to much of this knowledge being lost.

A Global Textiles Hub

India is the world’s second largest exporter of textiles. The sector accounts for about 13% of its total export earnings and produces a huge volume of pre-consumer waste. In addition, as more global brands enter India, it is also becoming a global hub for consumption. With a rapidly expanding middle-class comes an unprecedented volume of post-consumer waste. Fortunately, there are many solutions to be found in traditional ways of making, repairing and circulating. Age-old practices like Kantha from West Bengal, and Sujani embroidery from Bihar, for example, offer valuable examples for how old clothes and textiles can be recycled to create new quilts and garments.

Building for the Local Climate

Look around in India’s biggest cities today, and you’ll see rows of standardised, Westernised structures that are ill-suited to the local climate. Urban designers are now faced with the challenge of balancing the needs of a growing population with the consequences of a warming planet. In this it is important to rediscover local materials and architectural techniques that can manage heat, cold, or rain, reducing the need for air conditioners or coolers. 


To accelerate India’s transition to a circular society, we must bend the line where it matters most. Here are some key opportunities to consider:





  • What if you could inspire consumers to crave less novelty in fashion?

  • How could you collaborate with local artisans to create healthier and more climate-resilient cities?

  • How could you encourage more people to learn about practices like composting and urban farming?

  • What could you do to support workers by designing supply chains that are not just circular, but also fair?