"India’s Informal Environmental Army"

"Wastepickers who sort New Delhi garbage in search of recyclables are gaining new opportunities – and recognition – for their environment-benefiting work."

"When night falls, two men go through the back entrance of a Pizza Hut in a swank neighborhood of South Delhi and load dozens of garbage bags on to their mini truck. Over the course of the night, they will visit five Pizza Hut restaurants, four KFCs, one hospital and the New Delhi railway station. The two men have never stepped inside the front door of a Pizza Hut or a KFC, but they’ve eaten the food from these outlets on days when money is tight and leftovers inside those garbage bags are plentiful. Nevertheless, they count themselves among the fortunate ones.

Once they’re done collecting the trash from their allotted spots, they bring it back to a small warehouse in the Mahipalpur neighborhood, where Rekha, their boss, takes it from them.

Rekha is not only their boss; she is wife to one and mother to the other. Rekha employs a team of people — 10 women and six men, including her husband and son — several of whom will sort through this trash during the day. The paper is separated into one pile, the cardboard boxes into another. Rekha tosses the leftover pizza dough into a large bucket, which she will sell later for 4 rupees a kilogram to her neighbors, who will then feed it to the cows. “When you give them this bread,” she explains in Hindi, pointing to the leftover dough, “the malnourished cows give more milk.” The plastic cups she sells for 8 rupees per kilogram. Bottles go for 15, and cartons for 5."

Mridu Khullar Relph reports for Ensia November 14, 2013.

Source: Ensia, 11/18/2013