Making way for inclusive development

JU News Desk
Published: December 2014

Radio Active of Jain University bags the Samartha Project aimed at improving the lives of the waste pickers and making the city cleaner

wecareEvery morning the ammas promptly carry bags full of waste generated from homes where they are picked in the BBMP vehicles. What happens to this waste after they leave our homes? Hardly anyone pays attention to the very forgettable waste as long as they do not befoul the air with their stench. But, unknown to many of us, there is a community which collects, sorts, recycles and takes the recycled products to the market. These are the waste pickers who rummage through towering piles of garbage to dig out plastic, glass and other recyclable materials. They earn their livelihood by sorting the recyclable goods from the urban solid waste. Unfortunately, even though the community forms the very foundation of the recycling industry, they are not even formally employed. These self-employed waste pickers neither enjoy the rights of employed workers nor can they be put in the league of entrepreneurs.

A World Bank Report shows that almost 2 per cent of the global population are engaged in waste picking. That is quite a sizeable number in a world with a seven billion plus population. In Bangalore alone there are more than 15000 waste pickers. Despite forming a considerable chunk of working population, the waste pickers perhaps lie at the bottom of professional ladders with no social security and little support from the administrations. However, gradually advocacy and awareness campaigns by various NGOs have led to the Government to take steps towards the betterment of the waste picking community.

Under these initiatives, the Samartha Project has been awarded by the Central Government to the BBMP to implement the project by calling e-tender and procurement process. Radio Active, the Community Radio Station of Jain University has been awarded two packages for one year under the scheme. Samartha Project has two packages, the East Zone and Training of Waste Pickers. Under the first package the task to give an identity to these nameless faces who toll the whole day and play an active role in keeping the city clean is being undertaken. Under the scheme, Waste Pickers are going to be registered in Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) and team of Radio Active is going to facilitate the process of procuring ID Cards from the municipal body. This will enable the waste pickers to have an authorized Photo Identity Card. Along with the registration three formal collectives, each with 4-5 waste pickers in the East zone of Bangalore is also being established.

wecare-qAnother challenge that the waste pickers face is lack of organization in terms of collecting the waste as well as lack of links to the Dry Waste Collection Centres (DWCC). The first package intends to solve this issue by setting up sustainable service provisions for the waste pickers. Apartments, commercial establishments, big and small are some of the largest producers of urban dry solid waste. And therefore, these establishments and residential complexes are being targeted. There are a total of 44 wards in the East Zone out of which two supervisors would handle 15 wards each and one supervisor will handle 14 wards.

The MOUs with apartments and commercial apartments become very significant because these waste pickers do not usually have an assured source of solid waste from where they can collect recyclable materials. Once the waste pickers are in possession of the recyclable material, it needs to be sold to the scrap dealers. Here again there is a lack of organization. Under the Samartha Project, links are being established with Dry Waste Collection Centres (DWCCs) and wholesale merchants in Bangalore who deal with the scrap. Taking this two pronged approach would ensure that the waste pickers have a continued source for recyclable materials along with a place to sell these materials. It is estimated that once the systems are put in place each waste picker would earn between Rs 5500-Rs 6000.

The second package includes training the waste pickers. Under the scheme 400 waste pickers would from all the eight zones of the city would be trained. Waste pickers will also be identified in order to find collectives. Radio Active has already developed a comprehensive training module and the first training was conducted on July 25th for the East Zone Waste Pickers.

The training would benefit waste pickers in Bangalore and would also help to structure a better formula for waste management, which is one of the most serious issues being faced by the urban settlements today. Mostly unacknowledged the waste pickers play a very significant role in maintaining the environment. Everyday 4000 tonnes of solid waste is generated collectively by the residents of Bangalore. 90 per cent of these goes to the landfills. Out of these a big chunk comprises recyclable materials. Despite there being a rule of segregating waste at the sources, mixed waste still makes it to the landfills. Consequently, the landfills are eaten up fast, leaving the BBMP to look for new places to dump the waste being generated in the city. Also, much of the recyclable waste goes into the waste and cannot be utilized again.

The waste pickers who pick up scrap and take it to the scrap dealers can mitigate the ill effects on the environment being caused by dumping of recyclable wastes in landfills. Samartha presents a self-sustaining model of waste service provision which can be replicated. The model aims at helping both the waste pickers and the citizens of Bangalore. Upgrading skills of waste pickers, empowering them by creating links with the source of dry waste and places where these materials can be sold. The project is also making use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to increase the access points for waste collection. An Internet platform that brings together the waste producers and waste collectors is being piloted to facilitate coordination at these access points.

Overall, the project aims at providing a more sustained livelihood and improving the standard of living of the waste pickers, helping them to come out of the vicious circle of poverty while also providing them social security and recognizing their work. The skill development and upgrading of skills of waste pickers which is being imparted through training programmes would also ensure that they are better equipped in handling their issues and maximise their income.

Radio Active, the Community Radio Station of Jain University has been involved with the waste picker community for a long time and executing this project comes as a natural progression of the efforts that have been going on to give the waste picking community a voice and an identity. With this project it has taken this initiative a step further.