Magazine 2015
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Rekha Kaklotar  
Waste was an unavoidable by-product of human activities. Economic development, urbanization and  
improved livingstandards in cities contribute to increase in the quantity and complexity of generated solid  
waste. If accumulated, it leadsto degradation of urban environment, stresses natural resources and leads to  
health problems.Solid waste management hasbecome a major environmental issue in India. Waste  
management, however, remains a major challenge for any society,since all natural processes generate  
waste. Waste pickers play an important, but usually unrecognized role in the wastemanagement system of  
Indian cities. They collect garbage in search of recyclable items that can be sold to scrap merchantlike  
paper, plastic, tin...etc. This activity requires no skills and is a source of income for a growing number of  
urban poorpeople. The present paper intends to present problems of waste picker, their income status and  
their contribution in sustainable environment.Also, try to give suggestion to improve condition of waste  
Key Words: Health risks, Public attitude, Self - employment, Waste collection, Waste pickers.  
Introduction :  
The waste pickers are a part of this informal economy whose nature of employment constitutes collection,  
segregation and disposal of urban municipal waste. With growing urbanization and ever  
increasing population the problem of managing solid waste has resulted in accumulation of waste at  
every nook and corner. This challenge has further been aggravated due to lack of adequate capacity,  
institutional, financial capabilities and skilled resources in collection, transportation, processing and  
disposal of solid waste. In India, the management of solid waste is an obligatory function of the urban  
local body (ULBs). Privatesector, Informal sector and Community representatives play important role for  
collection of waste. However, various studies indicate that the municipal authorities in our country have  
failed in their endeavor to provide even the basic services at a satisfactory level. Attempts have been  
made in different cities to encouwaste e Public Private Partnership (PPP) in Solid waste management  
(SWM) and in some cities; this PPP model has demonstrated improvement in service also. However, the  
present capacity of municipalities in India to manage this process of privatization is extremely limited  
and there are certain bottlenecks which hamper the smooth functioning of both public and private  
sectors together in collection and disposal of garbage. It is in place to mention that the informal waste  
pickers and traders involved in the process of collection and disposal of waste.  
Definition of Waste Picker :  
Waste pickers are those workers whose livelihood depends on informal collection, segregation and  
sale of scrap. It does not include poor workers such as domestic workers, watchman, doorstep waste  
collectors hired by contractors, municipal workers, all of whom may be supplementing their incomes  
through sale of scrap. The latter category earns salary/wages while the Waste pickers do not.”  
A waste picker is a person who salvages reusable or recyclable materials thrown away by others to sell  
or for personal consumption. There are millions of waste pickers worldwide, predominantly indeveloping  
Objectives of this study :  
To understand issues about waste and waste picker.  
To know the Socio-Economic and Environmental contribution of waste pickers.  
To give suggestion for improve condition of waste pickers.  
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Methodology :  
Primary and Secondary data used for this research work. Primary information collected through personal  
interviews with waste pickers who collecting waste in the area of western Mumbai.This information has  
been developed through literature review, questionnaire survey and open-ended interviews conducted  
to generate data on Waste pickers.This survey carried out 50 waste pickers’s interviewed fromwestern  
zones of the city wherewaste pickers reside and operate.For analysis of primary data tables and pie  
chart used.Secondary information collected through journals, websites, books etc.  
Review of Literature :  
(Hunt, 1996),” Waste pickers make a living by selling materials they collect from dumpsites, bins  
and roadsides. Typically, this waste comes from domestic, industrial and commercial sources”.  
Cointreau-Levine,1998,”The risk is greatest in developing countries, where the contact between the  
solid waste worker and waste is greatest and the level of protection is least. Based on health studies  
of waste pickers conducted in Bangalore”  
Van Beukering, (1994),Described theVarious forms of informal waste recycling processes function in  
the cities of Karnataka .There are constant changes in the extent recycled prior to dumping because  
the direct collection from houses provides little chance for itinerant collectors to collect the recyclables.  
However, when wastes were dumped by households in street bins, this provided a good opportunity  
for rag-pickers to recover many of the recyclables.  
Chanakya and Sharatchandra,( 2005), Today, much of the recycling is done by waste collectors  
collecting wastes from individual households and the quantity of waste recovered this way is very  
Limitations of This Study :  
This study covered the area of Western Mumbai.  
The analysis of the study depends on answer given by waste pickers.  
Problems Faced by waste Pickers:  
They are often displaced in the name of developmental activities.  
Dust and dirty smell goes inside mouth through breathing. Because of that health problem incurred.  
There are pieces of glasses and iron while collecting the garbage.  
Among the most common types of job-related injuries for waste pickers are back and hand injuries  
caused by lifting heavy objects with little equipment. In a study of 50 waste pickers in western  
Mumbai almost all workers reported pain in the back, legs, shoulder, arms, and hands. Waste  
pickers who work in open dumps are exposed to large amounts of toxic fumes, and face other  
severe threats including being run over by trucks and caught in surface subsidence, trash slides, and  
Waste pickers commonly face harassment by police, building people and authorities.  
They are subject to denial of basic and social services like health care, schooling for children,  
absence of social security besides social marginalization.  
Analysis of this study :  
. Socio-Economic contribution:  
In many developing countries these organization and support activities not only benefit waste pickers as  
a group; they also generate significant economic benefits for the society as a whole. Through their  
informal recycling activities, waste pickers broaden their sources of income and lower the costs of  
recycling for municipalities. They also contribute to national industrial competitiveness and benefit the  
environment. Informal recycling improves industrial competitiveness in two main ways. First, materials  
recovered by waste pickers are generally cheaper than virgin materials. Second, recycling requires less  
energy than obtaining virgin raw materials, lowering industry’s operating costs. In Mexico,  
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wastepaper recovered by waste pickers is seven times cheaper than imported wood pulp. It has been  
estimated that waste pickers reduce the volume of waste by 30 percent, saving the municipality fuel,  
equipment, and labor costs and extending the life span of dumps and sanitary landfills. Recycling has  
obvious environmental benefits, and the involvement of waste pickers in recycling programs can enhance  
those. The recovery and recycling of inorganic material by waste pickers saves energy.  
Waste picking provides a source of livelihood to extremely poor people with few other employment  
opportunities. Though many waste pickers practice their trade as a full-time profession, its flexible hours  
make it accessible to women with other care responsibilities and to people looking to supplement  
income from other jobs.  
. Contribution of Waste Pickers in Sustainable Environment:  
Three Factors – poverty, gender inequality and poor quality of life are major challenges to sustainable  
urbanization. There is a greater participation of voluntary organization along with Municipal Corporation  
in the field solid waste management. The treatment of waste can become a potential opportunity to  
increase the people’s participation in the whole process and make them aware of their own  
responsibilities. This initiative can also convert the wet waste into green gold and make a considerable  
difference in the environment. Use of such manure or soil in the cities will stop the relentless exploitation  
of hills and river basins in the rural areas. It will also create better working conditions for the municipal  
conservancy workers who struggle day and night to keep the cities clean. It will bring the necessary  
attitudinal change in the people, which will help in the gradual acceptance by the society as responsible  
partners of the environmental entrepreneurship program.  
. Problems Encountered in Data Collection:  
At the initial stage of the survey, the Waste pickers were not co - operating with researcher for answering  
to the quarries. Gathering reliable information was also difficult since most of the waste pickers were  
illiterates. They were reluctant to speak on their income and other personal details.  
Waste Collection Time :  
Waste pickers have to spend some time in the collection of waste from different sources. Spending time  
on waste collection depends on the quantity of waste generated. In the study it was found that majority  
76%) of the waste pickers collecting waste in early morning and 24% of thewaste pickerscollecting  
waste throughout day. A waste picker began his work as early as 4 am, in order not to miss the waste.  
Whenever the bag was full, they returned to the store or trade centre to sell these earnings.  
Table: 1  
Waste Collection Time  
Early Morning  
Throughout Day  
Waste Segregation :  
Segregation is an important aspect in solid waste management. Proper segregation of waste would  
lead to better options and opportunities for its scientific disposal. During the survey, it was revealed that  
4% of the waste pickers collected waste materials without being segregated the site and remaining  
6% of waste pickers segregated the waste materials at the site itself. After segregated the recyclable  
materials from the waste, most of the waste pickers have the habit of selling the waste. In the investigation  
it was observed that 80% of waste collectors sold the collected waste materials on the same day itself.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Table: 2  
Segregate of Waste  
When Segregate Frequency Percentage  
Monthly Income :  
Due to collection and selling the waste, waste pickers are earning money. Majority 68% of the waste  
collectors earned Rs. 5000-10,000 per month, 16% of the respondentsearned Rs. Below 5000 and 16%  
earned a monthly income between 10001 to 15000,but no one waste picker earned more than Rs.15000per  
month. Those who earned between Rs.5000 to 15000, more than three family members of this respondent  
were connected this activity. Survey also found that most of women and children’s are doing this work  
and male of this family doing other activity .Because this income is not enough for run the family.  
Table: 3  
Monthly Income  
Below 5000  
000 to10,000  
0,000 to 15,000  
Above 15,000  
Occupational Health Hazards and Precautionary Measures:  
Waste consists of hazardous and toxic materials. While collecting and segregating the waste, waste  
pickers should adopt precautionary measures. In most of the cases, there is a chance of cause of health  
hazards to waste pickers. In the survey it was indicated that almost waste pickers are facing problems  
like back pain,headque, injuries, lung disease, body pain etc. Lack of precautionary safety measures  
and lack of awareness regarding health were the main causes of health diseases. Waste pickers did not  
take too much care of their health because of ignorance and povertyThe survey showed that 100 % of  
waste collectors are not using all kinds of health measures like cap, hand gloves, plastic coat mask etc.  
All are using only one or two types of health measures, like 27% used Plastic coat, 31% using Mask, 13%  
using Cap and 29% using Hand gloves. Lack of precautionary measures might produce health hazards  
to them.  
Job Satisfaction:  
Job satisfaction is very important in any profession. During the survey we asked the waste pickers about  
the job satisfaction, 51% of the respondents were not satisfiedwithwaste picking job because of the  
hardship involved in the long hours of work and poor remuneration; other 49% however, expressed  
Period of Service:  
Once the waste picker entered and got adjusted to that environment, it is not easy to come out of from  
that service. In the present study it was cleared that 46% Waste Pickers have 6 to 10 years work  
experience,26% Waste Picker are working since 1 to 5 years,18% have 11 to 15 years experience, 8%  
Waste Pickers are engage with this work since 16 to 20 years and 2% are doing this activity more then  
0 years.  
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Table: 4  
Period of Service  
to 5  
to 10  
1 to 15  
6 to 20  
Above 20  
Public Attitude and Harassment:  
During the survey we asked a question to the waste picker about the public attitude and harassment.  
They felt a non - cordial attitude. Manypeople treated them as untouchables and made harassments. A  
few public had a cordial attitude towards them. During survey it is also found that waste pickers harassed  
by their Colleagues,their boss, building people and BMC people also. The following data show that  
most of 20waste pickers were harassed by building people.  
Table: 5  
Harassment in Work Places  
Harassment By  
Building People  
From above detailed analysis researcher found that…  
Waste picker is a caste and gender based activity.  
52% of waste pickers are from age group 31-40 years.  
42% waste pickers took education till primary and 50% have till secondary.  
68% waste pickers are getting monthly income between 5000 to 10,000.  
46% waste pickers have 6 to 10 years experience.  
All waste pickers are collecting all types of waste like plastic, news paper, glass, iron etc. and the  
price per Kg. of all waste are as follow :  
Plastic 4 to 25, News paper 8 to 10, Glass 1 to 10, Iron 8 to 35.  
During working hours waste pickers are using health measures like cap, hand gloves, overcoat,  
mask etc.  
76% waste pickers are collecting waste in early morning.  
40% of waste pickers dispose this waste themselves and 60% of waste pickers are giving this waste  
to others for dispose.  
0. 40% of waste pickers harassed by BMC, 40% are from building people and 20% are from others.  
1. 24% of waste pickers segregate waste afterward and 76% waste pickers collecting waste separately.  
Suggestions to Improve Condition of Waste Picker:  
It is important that this informal sector builds a relationship with the local bodies so as to help them  
to improve their living standards and livelihood patterns.  
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They should be imparted proper training to understand the handling rules of waste management  
and environmental threats occurring due to improper disposal of waste.  
The city municipal, who is the responsible party for waste management and treatment, plays an  
important role to such project by providing the Fund and effective rules and regulations.  
NGOs can play an important role by mobilizing the community through various social Programs. In  
the case of Mumbai, SMS plays a pivotal role to improve women waste-pickers’ living standards by  
providing training and education.  
Private sectorswho are interested in the business model can also be the source of funding. Rich  
communities, hotels, restaurants and resorts are able to provide funding to kick off the project while  
reaping the fruit of their investment in the form of waste management, quality manure as well as free  
supply of cooking gas, depending on the amount of investment and size of the plant.  
There are various waste management technologies available in developing countries also.So, simple,  
cost-effective, suitability important for successful implementation.  
Organizing and training women waste pickers and issuing identity cards to them.  
Helping them establish self-help or micro-credit groups  
Helping them get the right price for the dry (recyclable) waste collected  
Promoting health awareness and education programmes  
Conducting awareness programs in schools and colleges to promote recycling  
Motivating and Helping citizens Institutions and Corporate to adopt Zero waste concept.’ Zero  
Waste’ means… Waste generated in your house is manageable waste. Do not send it to the dumping  
grounds. Segregate it at source into dry and wet waste.  
Incorporating waste pickers into waste management and recycling programs can in many cases be  
socially desirable, economically viable, and environmentally sound. To do so, however, decision makers  
need to recognize that waste pickers can be an asset, and municipalities need to engage with them as  
potential partners. Waste pickers have already started to organize themselves using different business  
models. In some countries governments have launched programs to support this formalization. Similarly,  
international donors are increasingly integrating waste pickers into programs to foster urban development,  
promote a cleaner environment, and increase recycling activities.  
Dr. Gowda, K and Dr. B.M.Hemalatha(2013), International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications,  
ISSN 2250-3153 Volume 3, Issue 1.  
Devi1K.S and Swamy V.V.S. Jan (2014), International Research Journal of Environment Sciences. ISSN  
2319-1414 Vol-3.  
Misra Roli (2004), The Informal Waste-Pickers and Model of Exclusion ,A Study of Lucknow City, Available  
Patel Vibhuti and Karne Manisha (2007), “The Macro Economics Policies and the Millennium Development  
Goals”, Gyan Publication, New Delhi.  
Dr. Rekha Kaklotar is Assistant Professor, Dept. of Economics, Maniben Nanavati Women’s College,