Finding Wealth in Waste — A Waste Picker’s Tale

July 19, 2016
By Rang De Team

For the past 30 years, Mohammad Kaleel has been in the waste collection business.

Kaleel’s father and brother were simple waste collectors. When they gave up to move to other jobs, Kaleel carried on.

He was only 12 years old.

Thirty years ago, he moved to Bangalore. For years, he operated from a small shop on the outskirts of the city.

He would earn Rs 5–6 for every kilo of scrap sold and the cost of iron items was as low as Rs 2 per kilo back then.

One of Kaleel’s four sons works with him. Support them here

With the world taking to recycling and factories starting to buy scrap, the cost increased and Kaleel found it easier to earn money for his family.

The increase in cost of scrap came at a price, though.

“Earlier, the police would swing by and demand money. I would have to shell out Rs 1,000 every month and sometimes Rs 100 every day to stop them from harassing me,” he told us.

Four years ago, he met HasiruDala. Our field partner HasiruDala works towards improving the conditions of waste pickers in Bangalore ensuring a continuous supply of recyclable waste for them.

Since then, the police intimidation has stopped.

With the help of HasiruDala, Kaleel now owns a godown and has 12 people working under him.

They go in vans to various places in and around Bangalore and bring back scrap. He now owns three vans which he uses for transporting the waste.

Kaleel tries his best to ensure that the people working under him have an easier life. He pays them good wages and ensures safe working conditions for them.

In the past, he would collect only two or three types of iron or plastic. Now, he collects over twenty different types of items.

Kaleel has even taken a loan from a money lender.

“If I took Rs 90,000, I had to repay 1 lakh within 100 days,” he said.

Most of the money from his loans were used to pay wages. He spends Rs 80K on wages every month. The rest was used for bringing waste from different places.

HasiruDala has started a ‘plastic for change’ campaign and Kaleel is a part of it as well.

“We are collecting Pet bottles and selling them to industries in Chennai,” he told us.

He segregates bottles according to colour because then factories pay a higher price. When the campaign started, bottles were sold for Rs 35–40 per kilo but now the prices have reduced.

Factories in Chennai want only green or white bottles and have agreed to pay Rs 20 per kilo ensuring waste pickers get a fixed sum.

We are looking to raise Rs 50,000 for Kaleel. With this amount, he hopes to employ two more people in his dry waste collection center. He also hopes to be able to source waste from other places.

Kaleel is a family man and hopes to provide the best for his family. He also cannot bear to see his employees struggle and ensures that he provides them with good wages and facilities.

Help this man run his Dry Waste Collection Centre and continue his business that provides a valuable service to the city of Bangalore.

HasiruDala have brought three Dry Waste Collection centre operators to our attention. Please help us support their loan requirements here.