After being involved with Rang De as a volunteer for what seems like forever I was quite excited to visit Rang De’s borrowers who run dry waste collection centres (DWCC) with Hasirudula during my recent trip to India. Being my first field visit, I wasn’t sure what to expect but was keen to learn.
Our first stop was to meet Sadashivaiah who runs a dry waste collection centre in Yeshwanthpur, Bengaluru. He has been in the dry waste sector for a stunning 40+ years! At Sadashivaiah’s centre we saw the waste sorters working without gloves and manually sorting through the dry waste. The conditions on the ground were unhygienic and sanitation could emerge as a significant issue potentially causing health-ailments. The waste sorters did mention that Hasiru Dala did provide them with gloves. However, they felt that it slowed down their work and hence decided to remove the gloves.
The waste is sorted into different categories: cardboard, plastic, metal, electronic waste etc.
We were delighted to learn more about the help that Hasiru Dala was providing to the waste pickers/recycling community on all fronts — be it getting the DWCCs registered as BBMP recognised organisations, providing them training and certification, helping stop police harassment, empowering them by making them aware of their rights and even facilitating education for their children as and when required.
Antonyamma (the other borrower we visited on the day) summed it up best when she said that, “With Hasiru Dala it feels that we are a family of 3000”.
The DWCC entrepreneurs we met had done well to scale their business and depending on the size of the centre they manage, they are able to earn a decent living. On the other hand, the waste sorters who are employed by the DWCC entrepreneurs we visited were only earning about Rs 250–300 per day or around Rs 6000–7000 per month.
While leaving from Sadashivaiah’s DWCC, we were left with food for thought when one of the waster sorters suggested to us that the waste sorters community too could use Rang De’s low interest loans. For the Rang De team too, the field visit provided some important insights which might perhaps necessitate going back to the drawing board to design loan products that meet the requirements of the waste sorters.
From our conversations with the waste recyclers we also learnt a lot more about the shortcomings in the system where the government schemes do not reach the intended beneficiaries times and time again.
For me personally, it was unnerving to see how the different waste items that I would just throw in the bins without hesitation, without segregation cause somebody to spend so much time and effort working in unsanitary conditions.
I went back with a renewed sense of purpose to start waste segregation at source on an individual level and even reduce the usage of plastic and polythene to the level possible.
It was also an enlightening opportunity to understand how complicated and important waste management is and also how there is so much work still to be done in an area where Rang De and Hasiru Dala are working together on number of different avenues in this.
Rohit Parakh was the President of Rang De UK Chapter and an avid Rang De supporter. Here he writes about his recent visit to Bangalore where he caught up with some waste management entrepreneurs that Rang De had funded.