"Wastepickers, mostly women, are an informal army of tens of thousands of workers who dig through Delhi’s garbage, gathering plastic, paper, pieces of metal, and shards of glass, recycling every scrap. …. They’re the single largest mitigator of greenhouse gas emissions in the city, more than any new technology," reports Enisia.
As a means of eeking out a living, the wastepickers may benefit the environment, but at their own risk of disease and infection.
An environmental research and action group Chintan, however, "works for environmental
justice in partnership with people and groups from diverse
sections of society. Our focus is on ensuring equitable and sustainable
production and consumption of materials, and improved disposal
of waste. An important part of this is ensuring green
jobs, security and dignity for the urban poor, many of whom
earn a living as waste recyclers,' states the NGO's website
The Enisia report notes, Last year, the organization was awarded the U.S. State Department’s
first-ever Innovation Award for the Empowerment of Women and Girls — a
$500,000 cash prize. As part of the promise to spend the money over two
years, Chintan has launched several new programs that benefit
wastepickers, including getting them work from corporates such as fast
food chains, hotels and malls. “The idea is that we go out and get the
work and then we train them and monitor quality. We do everything else
and just ask them to handle the waste. When they do a good job, they get
more and more work,” says Chintan’s director, Bharati Chaturvedi.
Because it reduces the amount of trash that is burned in air-polluting
incinerators or added to overflowing landfills, this boost for
wastepickers is a boost for the environment, too.