Shoddy Industry of India
India, a name synonymous with manufacturing of garments for some of the biggest brands in the world, also breeds a backyard industry that is salvaging the discharge of the global garment industry and completing the ideal circle of a garment life. The historic city of Panipat, in the state of Haryana, approximately 180 kms away from the capital city of Delhi, is in fact a global capital of textile fibre recycling. As the west sheds their Chanels and Fendis never to be worn again, the waste is purchased by Panipat’s shoddy manufacturers, recycled and the product sold anywhere between 25 cents to 50 cents.
‘Shoddy’, a term which colloquially resonates with ‘trashy’ and ‘badly done’, is ironically an industry only cleaning up the world’s textile garbage, the spillover sometimes being over 1,44,000 tonnes in weight per year. It comes from everywhere- US, Europe & parts of Asia, in containers, and reaches ports in Mumbai and Kandla in Gujarat, a lot of it still in wearable condition. It is then shipped in overloaded trucks to dreary bylanes of Panipat which harbour almost run-down ‘Shoddy’ factories that employ contract labour. (Of its many ironies, the most alarming is the fact that for this billion dollar industry, driving the world’s most sustainable motives, the labour wages & conditions are still of unethical standards).
Once the metal zips and buttons are off, it takes a few minutes to separate the fabric from seams, interlinings before it is shred thereby blending luxury with the mass-produced, all lumped into a series of piles. Most of this work is done by women factory workers, who often carry their toddlers to work and earn about $ 1.50 for an 8-hour day. The fabric shreds are carded to create yarns and then woven into blankets by men who make approximately $3-$4 for a 12-hour shift. Most workers belong to migrant communities from the north-east of India, most of them oblivious to the concept of recycling.
In the following documentary 'UNRAVEL' , director Meghna Gupta explores a garment recyclers world within factories, their fantasies of the western world, how they connect lines between cultures completely unknown to them by simply examining the clothes discarded by the West.
Between the year 2012 and 2015, shoddy factory setups reduced from 700 to a meagre 150, with many manufacturers moving to create blankets from Polyester, a yarn that is cheaper, lighter and warmer.
“The decline of Panipat as an industry will impact the recycling of worn clothing to a huge extent. Export will be diverted to other countries like Pakistan, China, Morocco, Kenya and Tanzania. But they have very small recycling industries," says Mehdi Zerroug, president of Bureau of International Recycling, headquartered in Belgium. “If this industry were to close it would be a very big problem globally as there would be more of this material going into landfills, adding to the problem of pollution," Zerroug warns.