By Aditi Sen:
This summer I interned with Chintan, a not-for-profit that works for environmental justice through sustainable production and consumption of materials, improved disposal of waste, and ensuring green jobs that give security and dignity to the urban poor, many of whom earn a living as waste recyclers through the “Waste to Livelihoods“ project. Waste is akin to gold for waste pickers since it provides them with a livelihood – their daily bread and a roof over their heads.
I had never given much thought to the different forms of livelihoods or what they originated from. A month ago, if someone said that waste creates livelihoods, I would have nodded my head in agreement, since the ‘kabadi wala’ or waste picker was a regular at our home. Raju came to collect the daily waste and for the larger accumulated waste like newspapers, bottles, metal, stationery, Pappu visited us once a month.
Like them, there are 1.5 million waste-pickers, waste-traders, workers in godowns and re-processors in India. They form the primary recycling system in the country who earn a living by picking waste, segregating, cleaning, dismantling, transporting, and trading in it. However, their income is meagre, and their jobs far from secure, with poor working conditions.
Hotels are bulk generators of solid waste. My internship project was to analyse data collected from a luxury chain of hotels in the Delhi-NCR region to understand the number of livelihoods created from waste. Chintan has been working in partnership with this chain since 2007 and has been collecting and disposing waste from five of its properties in the Delhi-NCR region. It is important to dispose of waste in an authorized and scientific manner with proper segregation to ease the burden on landfills.
Waste is categorized as wet and dry and disposed of in the following manner:
From April 2016 to March 2017, the hotel group in the Delhi-NCR region generated a total of 1,024,380 kgs of waste, of which 26% (254,668 Kg) was dry and the remaining 74% was all inert and wet. Given below is the waste by types and quantity from each of the hotel properties that were studied.
For the purpose of this study, we looked only at dry waste since it is the source of livelihood for the waste pickers. Dry waste essentially comprises of:
Monthly Collection of Dry Waste (in Kg)
|Hotel||Bottles||Paper & cardboard||Broken glass|
Given above are the three major constituents of the dry waste generated by the hotel chain, namely broken glass, cardboard, and bottles. These three constituents make up 87% of the dry waste. Others include tins, cans, drums, metal scraps et cetera.
In addition to this, according to estimates by Chintan, approximately 150 kg of dry waste has the potential to create one livelihood, generating a daily income of ₹250-300 by selling the dry waste to authorized recyclers. Therefore, one ton of dry waste can sustain six waste pickers and their families.
An analysis of the data from the luxury hotel chain reveals that the five properties in the Delhi-NCR generate enough waste to sustain 1,698 livelihoods a year, i.e., an average of approximately 141 livelihoods a month. Amongst the five hotels studied for the project, Hotel 3 creates the maximum livelihoods at 781 per annum.
|Hotel||Waste (in Kg)||Livelihoods|
The luxury hotel chain with five properties in Delhi NCR generated 254,668 Kg of waste from April 2016 to March 2017, generating 1,698 livelihoods in the year, with approximately 141 livelihoods per month. It is essential to dispose of waste in an authorised and scientific manner with proper segregation that will ease the pressure on landfills. Waste is valuable as it creates green jobs that not only result in environmentally sustainable goods and services but also enable a worker to earn a stable livelihood, work safely and legally by not being exposed to toxins. A stable income provides sustenance to millions of families.
 Green jobs enable a worker to earn minimum wages, work safely and legally and not be exposed to toxins. As part of the process, the waste-pickers are educated on waste management and the importance of segregation. They are then “upgraded” with uniforms, masks, gloves, identity cards, and vehicles for waste collection.
 Chaturvedi, Bharati (2010). “Mainstreaming Waste Pickers and the Informal Recycling Sector in the Municipal Solid Waste”. Handling and Management Rules 2000, A Discussion Paper.