We pick up what someone has discarded as having no value and give it value through our labour. Long ago in 1990, we were treated like the trash we collect. People would shoo us away like they would dogs. They would cover their noses when they passed us. It hurt. We were not sitting in garbage because we enjoyed it! We were there because we wanted the recyclables. We mostly worked alone, sometimes with friends who did not care too much about it either. Our mothers and grandmothers had done it before us. It was this work that brought us money to feed ourselves and our families so we did it.
One summer’s day in 1993 all of us gathered in a hall to talk. We talked like we never had before giving vent our anger and frustration at the way we were treated.....like trash!
That was the turning point for us. That day we decided to stand tall. That day we decided to walk with dignity on the road we had never travelled, as human beings.......as part of Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat.
Kagad Kach Kashtakari Panchayat is our trade union. It brings together waste pickers, itinerant waste buyers, waste collectors and other informal recyclers. We recover, collect, categorise and sell scrap materials such as corrugated board, paper, plastics, metals and glass for recycling. We also provide garbage collection, composting and related waste management services. Our members are self employed workers.