The International Alliance of Waste Pickers is a union of waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries
Supported by Logo WIEGO


April 26, 2012

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INDIA – 26 April 2012

On Wednesday, local ragpickers and some from other Indian cities got a whiff of modern techniques that make life easier for their counterparts in other countries, even garnering praise from people visiting from developed countries.

A mélange of wastepickers descended on YASHADA hall from all over India for a six-day National Convention of the Alliance of Indian Wastepickers, Asian Consultation for Urban Local Bodies and the Global Strategic Workshop. International delegates observed the process of waste picking and disposing garbage in the city and shared experiences from their own countries.

For Bayu Susila from Indonesia, the “organised” ragpickers came as a pleasant surprise. “Wastepickers in our country work individually and can be recognised by their appearance. I appreciate the fact that municipal corporations here work with ragpickers.”

Susila, the director of Bali Fokus, an organisation that works for Indonesian ragpickers says there they are often viewed as thieves and even banned from some areas. “Ragpickers get beaten by authorities and other people. Also, they only collect dry garbage like plastic bottles and do not touch wet garbage.”

San Francisco resident Neil Tangri works with an organisation called Gaia. About American ragpickers, he said, “We have three bins for the segregation of garbage, and this convention is followed very seriously.

We use more machinery as labour is expensive. We also focus more on workers’ safety, unlike people here who physically go through garbage dumps and segregate waste with their bare hands.”

He thinks they could take back with them lessons on experimenting with biogas plants from India. “I also like the tendency to recycle everything as much as possible here. In the US, too much waste is generated because of commercialisation.”

Tangri, who has visited India since the 1990s and lived in Mumbai, Darjeeling and Chennai, said employing people to pick waste could also be implemented in his country, as the US is facing an unemployment problem.

Silvio Ruiz of the National Association of Columbia and Association of Bogota had an interesting observation as well. Having worked in the international network of wastepickers for 27 years, Ruiz said through his interpreter, Deia de Brito, “The process of waste collection is more complete here.

Garbage is not only collected, it is taken to a biogas or compost plant. Waterpickers in Columbia earn their living by selling items they collect. Here, wastepickers are paid by municipal corporations and communities. Otherwise, the technology used here is the same as ours.”

Attendees of the conference visited sites of SWaCH’s door-to-door collection in the Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation areas, sorting sheds, fair-trade scrap shops run by Kagad Kach Patra Kamgar Sanghatana and the PMC’s biogas plants, some of which are managed by wastepickers.

Malati Gadgil, CEO of SWaCH and co-organiser of the conference with PMC and PCMC, said, “Around 450 delegates have come together and many are from overseas. Their participation gives local workers an awareness of the global situation.”

Prakash Kumar of Kachara Kamgar Union, New Delhi was all praise for civic authorities here. “They have recognised workers here. An individual with no education or financial resources is forced to turn to this trade and s/he has every right to earn a livelihood legally. I found that workers are treated with dignity here — unfortunately we miss that,” he said. Read original article