Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are 3 Rs for energy conservation and environment. After emphasizing so much on reducing, reusing, and recycling in my last few posts at Visceral Observations, I decided to take a stock of recycling scenario in India. I am shocked!
US and UK have active recycling centers, where consumers come and dump their waste. Electronic waste like LCDs and even tetrapacks are being recycled in other countries! But India has no awareness like that.
In India, recycling is taken care of by people, whom we more than often, relegate to lowest hierarchy of humanity. Yes, all our recycling is done mostly by ragpickers and kabaris! Most ragpickers are young, little above the age to be called kids. Thousands of them pick through garbages in your city. As they sift through garbage unprotected, they absorb toxins from the garbage. They are hunched for hours, which gives them several back and cervical problems at early age.
Delhi alone generates over 7000 MT waste daily. There are a range of materials that are picked up by these ragpickers: plastics, paper, glass, and metals. Studies estimate that these informal labour forces saves the three Municipalities a minimum of Rs. 6 lakhs daily.
The other people involved in this recycling process are: ragpickers, small middlemen, transporters, larger middlemen and reprocessors.
Ragpickers, when their waste bag is full, sell the waste to middleman called kabari. Before a kabari will buy waste from the rag picker, the ragpickers must ensure two things to get their hard-earned money:
- Sort the waste according to different types of plastics, paper, metals.
- Ensure that the waste is clean and dry, or the kabari can’t accept them.
In US and UK, despite recycling centers that segregate waste, citizens are aware about segregation of waste at homes and work places. Whereas in India, if we were more aware about segregation of waste, these ragpickers would have less cuts, burns, backaches, allergies, dog-bites, respiratory disorders.
It is sad that ragpickers who clean up our dirt and contribute to environment are harassed by both police and municipal workers. They need to bribe municipal workers to forage into garbage bin. Police, instead of protecting them, often beats them and forces them to sweep police stations and municipal offices. Bullies also snatch their hard-earned meager sum, landing them into vicious cycle of debt. Often their earnings are held back by middlemen to cover previous loan. They are then forced to starve! It is a scary profession.
These ragpickers are not beggars. They do the hard work. When will we recognize their effort and provide them at least basic amenities?
My question is how do I contribute to help these rag pickers? What can I do for them? I can not sit for government to do something. Any ideas?