A day in the life of a waste picker
Yoshita Kulkarni and Anusha Menon, Std IX, St Joseph High School, Pashan, Pune
Gandhiji said, “No matter how insignificant the thing you have to do, do it as well as you can, give it as much of your care and attention as you would give to the thing you regard as most important. For it will be by those small things that you shall be judged.” His thoughts on the dignity of labour are entirely relevant in addressing solid waste management in our cities. If we take the care to segregate different types of waste materials, and also understand why we must, much of the problem would be solved. Yoshita and Anusha’s EVS project shows why.
We selected Solid Waste Management as the theme for our Environment Project. We investigated the methods of waste management in the neighbourhood. We interviewed the people who collect garbage from our doorstep, and visited the places where they separate out and categorize the different waste materials. They had much to say about the problems and hazards they face while doing their job, such as getting injured by sharp items in the waste. Also about how frustrating it is to segregate the waste, the pay and the attitude of the people towards them. So we decided to present a short 2 minute play to our class depicting the problems the waste pickers face. The script:
Cast: Sutradhar, Mrs Tupe, Waste Collector, Mrs Sushila, Waste Collector 2, Mrs. Nair, resident Daughter, Neighbor and Sanitary Inspector
Sutradhar: This is a snapshot of our everyday lives. The city of Pune exports tons of garbage everyday to Urali Devachi. Waste Collectors take away the waste we generate everyday from our
doorstep. The problem starts there and so does the solution.
— Enter Mrs Tupe, Waste Collector —
Mrs Tupe: Knock, Knock!
Mrs. Nair: Who’s there?
Mrs Tupe: Waste Collection Service.
— Mrs. Nair Opens the door and gives the Waste Collector a bag
of garbage —
Mrs Tupe: What? Only one packet?
Mrs. Nair: Why, what did you expect?
Mrs Tupe: Well… two! Dry and wet.
Mrs Nair: Ok, from tomorrow I’ll give it to you in two packets. (Shuts the door)
— Mrs Tupe and Mrs Sushila sorting waste at the sorting shed —
Sutradhar: After collecting the waste of 200 houses, the Waste Collectors sort through the Dry Waste to further categorize the materials into paper, plastic, glass and metal. But there are many
Mrs Tupe: OW!
Mrs. Sushila: What happened?
Mrs Tupe: Broken glass … ouch. I’ve cut my hand. That Mrs. Nair! Not only did she not keep dry and wet separate, she also put broken glass directly into the garbage bag!
Mrs. Sushila: You should report to the Supervisor. I don’t know when citizens will learn! Hunh!
Sutradhar: The next day
Mrs Tupe: Knock, knock, Waste Collection!
Mrs. Nair:(opens the door and brings only one bag) Here you are!
Mrs Tupe: (In a loud angry voice) What again only one bag? I can not accept unsegregated waste – it’s a rule. Mixed waste is difficult to recycle.
Neighbor: What’s this noise, what has happened?
Mrs Tupe: Madam you give me dry and wet waste separate but this madam does not. See I cut my hand on broken glass from their house yesterday.
Daughter(coming to the door): Mama, I told you I can help to make the new system. We have learnt this in school. Its also my EVS project. See I got the compost kit also.
Daughter (to Mrs Tupe): Don’t worry, from tomorrow I will make sure you get dry waste separately and no wet waste Sutradhar: Just then, a Sanitary Inspector from the municipal authority arrives at the scene.
Sanitary Inspector: Mrs. Nair, I have come to check your compost pit. I see it is not working. You will be fined Rs 1000.
Mrs. Nair: Oh no! Please excuse us for this time. My daughter and I are just going to restart the compost pit.
Sanitary Inspector: Madam, If you restart the compost pit you will get 5% rebate on property tax.
Daughter (in a panicky voice): But the problem is… I don’t know how to operate the compost pit!
Neighbor: I’ll help you with that! A box of size 3x2x2 feet is all right for 1 kg of wet waste. You first put a layer of brick pieces then a layer of sand, and then another layer of leaf litter. Over that just spread a layer of soil containing earthworms. Give them a few days to adjust to their new home. After that, they’re ready to work their magic.
Sanitary Inspector: Right then, I’ll check again in a month to see whether you have to pay a fine or get a rebate. Sutradhar: Peace returned to the neighborhood. And the moral of the story is ‘segregate your waste and compost your wet waste’.
The article first appeared in CEE’s Earth Care page in Sakal Young Buzz, January 29, 2010.
Available online at www.kidsrgreen.org/sakal/index.htm