Written by Kabir Arora. Stories of Waste and Waste Workers – Live Blog of Hasiru Dala. 08/18/2015
Notes from Nayandahalli
‘Cities are engines of growth’ is an old cliché statement. For economic growth and well being of mankind they consume the resources sourced from faraway lands and release matter termed as waste. It is imperative to frame the discourse of sustainability in cities around the questions of ‘flow of matter’ i.e. where is the material coming from and where is it going after its usage? It is also must to state that hinterland is not always the resource provider. Cities do sustain each other with the exchange of matter manufactured in the eco-system of cities. The dichotomy between what is resource and what is waste is not very clear. Waste too becomes a resource. It has inherent value which is evolved over a period of time with the help of market mechanisms. Recycling, up-cycling and down cycling are all ways of taking the waste in and transforming it into resource. Provide the same as raw material for industries dotting urban –rural landscapes. This is the story of waste and the journey it embarks on before becoming resource and further, a finished product.
Journey of waste begins in Bengaluru. City is now being termed as ‘garbage city’ of India. Such a title is not welcome at all. Contradiction comes out when we mention that Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan ranked it to be one of cleanest capitals of India. Let us assume that it is comparably clean, but lot needs to be done.
Bengaluru consumes resources and generates waste like all other cities. It is estimated that city generates around 3000-5000 tons of waste every day. Does it all go to the dump yard? Nope! 1050 tons reaches the informal waste economy. This is an approximate number provided by Hasiru Dala- a membership based organization of wastepickers and other informal waste workers.
Hasiru Dala works with wastepickers and scrap dealers for social and livelihood security. Wastepickers and scrap dealers are important agents of a process which transforms waste into resource or raw material. Their livelihood security very much depends on this transformation. From past two-three years of formal and informal operations we at Hasiru Dala realized that we are yet to grasp the whole picture of informal waste economy.
You must be realizing it by now that it is turning out to be the story of informal waste economy. We will be telling anecdotes, tales, life experiences and narratives of work force in informal waste economy. Story of waste and people of waste!
In Hasiru Dala, we know about door to door collection done by sanitary workers. Informality and livelihood insecurity in the ‘formal waste collection systems’ leads to leakage of recyclables. The recyclables reach itinerant buyers. Kabadiwallas also go for collection of waste. They collect materials like glass, metal and paper on paid basis from residents; provide it to material specific itinerant buyers. Wastepickers collect waste which has value from neighborhood black spots (small dumping yards dotting all over the landscape of the city), streets and even households where door to door collection is yet to begin and sell it to itinerant buyers. Beyond this point we were not very clear about the journey undertaken by waste. This curiosity for knowing the destination of waste forced us to look beyond our comfort zone i.e. wastepickers and scrap dealers.