New Delhi, India
The Chintan recycling project at the New Delhi Railway Station manages tons of unsorted garbage every day and enables waste-pickers to carry out their livelihoods in a clean and dignified work environment.
The objective of Chitan Environmental Research and Action Group is "to reduce ecological footprints and increase environmental justice through systemic change, through partnerships, capacity building, sustainable, scalable models on the ground, advocacy and research". Chitan's initiatives include research, campaigns, policy interventions, building capacity among those engaged in recycling, and creating awareness about the need for reduced consumption and better waste management among the middle and upper classes.
The Material recovery Facility at the New Delhi Railway Station has emerged from a partnership between Chintan, Safai Sena (an association of waste-pickers) and the New Delhi railway station. This project is part of Chitan's project "A Voice for Waste" which aim is to help the informal waste-recycling sector understand the value of their work to the environment, organize for green jobs and advocate for better policies both locally and nationally.
This project was awarded the 'Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award' in 2014. Learn more about the award.
Background and objectives
Poor waste management is an important factor for greenhouse gas emissions. In India, it contributes to over 3% of the country's total greenhouse gas emissions. The growing middle class (over 300 million residents by recent statistics) is consuming more and contributes to the production of an increasing quantity of waste in the country. India produces 42 million tonnes of waste annually.
Among the urban poor, Chintan concentrates its partnerships on informal-sector waste recyclers. This group of individuals is marginalized and discriminated against, despite the fact that their work is efficient and includes essential green services such as waste collection and recycling. In India, 1% of an average city's population recycles waste and contributes to alleviate environmental pressure. Their work helps clean up cities by recycling approximately 20% of the waste generated. Their work involves picking waste, segregating it, cleaning it, dismantling it, transporting it and trading it. Despite this, recyclers lack formal recognition, equal rights, secure and safe livelihoods and dignity. They are also poorly organized and daily exposed to high levels of pollution and dangerous toxins.
Chitan's 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.
Chitan works through five main programmes:
- A Voice for Waste: Partnerships with the informal waste-recycling sector in programmes designed to help the sector organize itself for inclusion in policies and to have secure, green livelihoods. A large part of the programme's work is undertaken in partnership with the association of waste recyclers, Safai Sena.
- Scavengers to Managers: Chintan helps building green businesses at the bottom of the pyramid to set up solid-waste handling systems that result in green jobs.
- No Child in Trash: Chintan works with wastepicker children in four areas in Delhi and organizes customized education for over 1300 children to help them train for formal school and stay in such schools.
- Low Carbon Futures: Chitan works with bulk waste producers - offices, factories and other large organizatons - to collect and recycle their waste.
- Knowledge Power: Chitan is involved in research projects and awareness raising activities.
The Material recovery Facility at the New Delhi Railway Station stands on a former garbage dump, which has been transformed into a dignified and clean working space where the trained rag-pickers come and carry out their livelihoods.
The garbage which would otherwise end-up in landfill dumps outside the city is sorted into organic and non-organic waste by trained workers at the center. The organic waste is then composted into manure through micro-composting and the non-organic waste is systematically sorted into various recyclable components of which only 20% ends up in landfills. At the end of the process, the sorted waste is passed onto various corporate producers like tetrapack for recycling.
Financing and resources
Chitan employs over 30 men and women who work in the following domains: team building, community training and waste management to education, policy research and advocacy.
Results and impacts
The facility is a part of six material recovery facilities that the organization operates around the city, which collectively divert about 21 tons of waste from 3 landfills in the city.
Chintan has helped set up various organizations run by the informal sector, including Safai Sena, contributing to the self-representation of recyclers.
The profits generated through the project are utilised to improve social awareness among the rag-picking community and to create educational facilities for children of the waste-pickers. Proper management and systematization of the process leads to more dignified livelihoods for the otherwise marginalized rag-picking community.
Lessons learned and transferability
Chitan is committed to work directly with the poor and marginal communities in India. This grassroots experience allows Chitan to advocate for better policy at the state and central level. Innovation and partnership-building with corporates, residents and institutions make an ecological and inclusive approach to urban waste management in a mega city like Delhi possible.
- Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award 2014 Delhi, p.30