The waste pickers

Dear Editor,
Apropos the report, “Plastic wasteland: Asia’s ocean pollution crisis” (World, June 6, 2018), our brothers and sisters who are engaged in waste picking, help India achieve the highest PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) recycling rates in the world! A report says that India recycles or reuses over 90 per cent of all the PET that is manufactured in our country. We can achieve almost 100 per cent PET recycling rates if we can use the service of adult waste – pickers in a more methodical manner.
Waste – pickers have been rendering great service to the cause of India’s garbage disposal and world’s environment, risking their own lives. While trying to keep the environment clean, they run the risk of allergy, skin rashes, tuberculosis and several other infections.
They dispose of the garbage in the most scientific way by taking the recyclable materials from the garbage vat to where it can be recycled. Without their service, those materials would have been burnt, resulting in air pollution and warming of the environment or would have been dumped resulting in soil/ water pollution and drain choking.
The need of the hour is to entrust local self governments to register all adult waste pickers in their respective areas and make them engage in garbage recycling, compost creation and management.
Corporations, municipalities and panchayats are to provide each of them under their jurisdiction with an identity card, a uniform, a sack and a stick (to shoo away street dogs and to rummage through garbage).
They should also be given money, food, soap, hand – gloves and pollution – masks every week. These items will give them recognition, prestige and protection which they really deserve.
There is however no question of disturbing the exclusive job of the cleaning staff to dispose of the non-recyclable garbage. Child waste – pickers must be encouraged to go to school and provided with food packets and other incentives, apart from the midday meal.
Sujit De, Kolkata