The International Alliance of Waste Pickers is a union of waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries
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Written by Pinky Chandran

March 25, 2020

Check translation:
Waste Narratives. 03/25/2020


Picture courtesy- Pinky Chandran

Physical distancing, stocking up on sanitizers, soaps for hand-washing, masks and gloves, hoarding supplies, limiting travel, working from home may be the new normal in being and is seen as an act of being responsible citizens. But pause, take a deep breath and ask yourself- what about the sanitation workers, (pourakarmika/ safai karmacharis), waste pickers and other informal waste collectors and recyclers, who are in the frontline of managing our waste? There is an urgent need to be conscious of the work they do, and the services they offer.

Picture availed from Hasiru Dala’s archives

There is a need for us to realize that we have to be inclusive in fighting the pandemic and in situations like these the best thing that you can do is to “segregate our waste.”

  1. Read up about the right way to segregate your waste from the 2bin1 bag website Ensure three-way segregation of waste at source. Take time to rinse out your soiled plastic or beverage cans and take away boxes, yes including the sachets, pizza/cake boxes, everything.
  2. Dispose off masks, gloves, and tissues that you are using in sanitary waste separately. It must be wrapped in a newspaper bag and clearly specified or marked. Think twice about using disposable wet wipes, as it is known to clog drains.
  3. Make sure the sanitary worker/waste picker is aware of the contents in the bag.
  4. It will not hurt for you to spend a few minutes to engage with the waste workers and donate personal protective equipment such as gloves and face/eye/mouth protection if they are not using or haven’t been given. Also, ensure that they are aware of cleaning the PPE tools.
  5. Do not dump waste, in case you missed the pick-up.
  6. There is much debate on this, but it is better to be safe and go the sustainable way and shun the single-use plastic. (In a paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed, National Institute of Health scientists analyzed the behaviour of the coronavirus, researchers tracked the virus’ life on different surfaces and the longevity of staying on plastics, cardboard, steels and other material may way vary. You are better off, with something that can be washed and sterilized, than disposed of right?
  7. Lastly, if you show symptoms or have travelled recently and are waiting for results, please do not leave waste unsupervised for collection. Be proactive and inform the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Pallike (Greater Bangalore Municipal Corporation- BBMP) or your relevant local authority.

Remember that the sanitation workers and waste-pickers are playing a crucial role in our fight against COVID 19, being responsible towards them is our fundamental duty as citizens.