Urban Waste Management and Welfare of Waste Pickers

Bangalore with a population of 95 lakh and spread over 800 sq. kilometers produces between 4000-6000 tons of waste per day. The responsibility for the proper handling, collection, transportation and disposal of waste in the city lies with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). The predominant method of disposal is dumping in open landfills, which has tremendously detrimental impacts on the quality of air, water and soil. The BBMP has a sanctioned staff of 12,000 for waste management in the city, but only 7000 are on the rolls. The citizen to staff ratio is a paltry 401:1. (The Times of India May 2012). The present formal system of waste collection is thoroughly inadequate with many areas left uncovered, resulting in garbage piling up on street corners.

The informal economy workers have long compensated for inadequate waste management systems in the city by collecting discarded materials that have zero value and convert it into a tradable goods through their labor in extraction, collection, sorting, grading and transporting. These informal economy waste workers (numbering 15000- 20000) are also among the most vulnerable populations in the city. According to one CHF survey a significant number of waste pickers are women who belong to socially marginalized populations, including backward castes (conducted by Global Communities (formerly CHF International) and MSSS (Mythri Sarva Seva Samithi)in 2010). The survey found a significant number of young (18 to 40 years), illiterate and economically & socially disadvantaged people engaged in waste picking in the city. In addition to traditional waste pickers, a significant proportion of the migrant population in the city is working with waste. The waste pickers’ access to water, sanitation and housing facilities in the city still remains inadequate with the situation being worse among migrant waste pickers living in temporary accommodation and lacking basic identity cards, no services to collect waste etc. The working conditions of waste pickers are also deplorable. Safety gear is not a priority for formal economy waste workers and in the informal economy; it is not even a possibility. Armed only with old shoes and clothes picked out from waste heaps and a stick to sort through trash, the working conditions of informal waste pickers leaves a lot to be desired.

The Hasirudala project aims to organize waste workers, i.e. waste-pickers in Bangalore to enhance and upgrade their skills for innovation in waste management services leading to their increase in income by 10-40%, their formal inclusion in the waste management market approved by Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Pallike (BBMP) and increased access to social, nutrition and environmental security measures provided by state and other institutions.

Hasiru Dala’s significant achievement in its first year of inception has been to be able to integrate informal waste workers in operating 27 Dry Waste Cleaning Centers (DWCC). The city administration directly signed a memorandum of understanding with the waste pickers to operate dry waste collection centers known as Kartavya because of organization’s consistent advocacy with the municipal body. The given space has the potential to be transformed into a cooperative fair trade scrap store and a place where public citizens, officers of the BBMP and waste pickers can interact and share ideas.

The following are some of the outcomes of this project during FY 2016-17.

  • Skill upgradation of around 100 waste pickers on terrace gardening, composting, zero waste wedding and event waste management.
  • Health Care services through medical checkup camps covered around 450 waste pickers
  • Trained 100 women waste pickers on mushroom cultivation, with an objective of handling nutrition issue.
  • Access to education for 800 children of waste pickers and informal waste workers through scholarships for schooling.