India Rag Recycling: Not so Shoddy

Taking a break from Africa trip, I reminded myself to USE TWITTER for its intended purpose.

Twitter isn't for writing, and reading every person you follow is about as edifying as reading a library card catalog. Booleans and keyword searches have long replaced the Dewey Decimal System.

Twitter is about the SEARCH box.   So for a break, I typed in "Recycling India".

BAM. BINGO.   A textile recycling city.  Tip of the hat to Tweeter Tim Mitchell of the UK.

APOLOGIES - I must redirect you to this site, still strongly recommended.
In place of the India photos I originally posted, I have put in several 60 year old Wikimedia photos of rag-pickers from Western cities.  Do visit Tim Mitchell.

I completely understand that an artist saying "yes" to one person can lose control of the images as they are found by other bloggers.   Fortunately, through Wikimedia Commons, I have managed to find practically the same photos (in black and white) as the activity shown in India, mostly taken in Britain in the 1940s.

Wikimedia commons - "Old rags into new cloth Britain"

At the thrift shop I managed for two years, we sold a lot of bales of used clothing, and found the market dominated by Indians, Pakistanis, and Africans.   My long lost chum Yadji told me about his family making treks to Lagos to buy bales of used clothing to bring back to his Cameroon village of Yenwa.

The Tim Mitchell link shows 28 photos taken at an Indian rag and clothing trade village, which I say defies the labels of "formal" and "informal" sector, terms made up by Western academics and then applied by the Chinese Communist Party to crack down on Taiwanese competitors with CCP owned factories.

The mall photo or Mitchell's (#10) reminds me of the Cairo used Technology Malls.   The 28 photos show several links to different niches and segments.  One is actually the business of buying used India Saris, washing them up, and exporting them to the "hippy markets" in Western countries.

Baling is the most capital intensive part of my business in Vermont, and if they have it in India, I don't see why we won't be able to install them (or discover them) in Ghana.

Eventually, the clothing is all completely hand sorted to grades of wool, and subgraded by color.

In Mitchell's photos, Women appear to make up a lot of the workforce.  In 1940s England, it looks like mens work.

Cavernous sheds are filled with old machines
which break down the knitted and woven
clothing into pulp, a source of reclaimed woolen
and wool-mix fibres known as “shoddy”.  

File:Old Rags Into New Cloth- Salvage in Britain, April 1942 D7452.jpg

The segregated shoddy is woven into various types of yarn.   I see they haven't got the steel toed boots on order in India, but as I've cited many times, "Hong Kong Foot" or infections caused by sweaty feet in boots in hot climates is a bit of a cultural difference, which I've decided not to judge by Vermont standards.  The point is that this is exactly what you hope will be done with your used clothing.

File:Old Rags Into New Cloth- Salvage in Britain, April 1942 D7446.jpg
Wikimedia - Old rags into new cloth salvage1942

And in India, Mitchell shows the yarn is used for making carpets... Which are valued east and west.  The power looms in India's "informal" sector don't look "informal" at all in this wikimedia photo of a loom.

India is generally against used goods imports, believing since Indira Gandhi's socialist rule in the 70s that they undermine industrial development.   But India appears to have relaxed the standards on used textiles, even though most of the photos show India gathered scrap cloth generated by Indians.  The article claims 100,000 tonnes per year are imported.

Which I'd say is a good thing.

Like the "white box" PC market of the 1990s, second hand isn't primitive.  It is profitable and evolves into very respectable industry.

Here's another use of recycled clothing... the polyester "shoddy" is used to stuff mattresses, automobile seats, etc.   (The photo below was taken with my cell phone at a Salvation Army store).

And from Salvation Army, let's go to Goodwill Industries in Arizona (also my photo), I previously uploaded film of this Goodwill beehive.

The point is that "informal sector" has no meaning.   It is a binary term, like "OECD" and "certified" which has not been vetted by any study.

It has been charactarized in bigoted, racial stereotypes, and the visceral reaction to photos appears almost racist in overtones.    Halloween images of scary brown, black and yellow people do not make for policy.

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