An Observation in Urban Waste
They are ghosts that throng the streets and under the bridges. They are the nameless bodies that constitute a part of everywhere and yet one barely recalls their existence.
They are the source-segregators of one of the most polluting entities of our environment- the plastic.
They have no name. No municipality nor any city council of India recognise their contributions to cleaning up the environment, the roads and streets by picking up what we don’t think twice before dropping it out of the windows of our vehicles or what we dump in the trash can without separating the organic matter from inorganic and more importantly, recyclable from the non-recyclable.
They scour through some of the most disgusting areas of human refuse and waste, pick out the plastics, wash them in vats, sometimes with surfactants and then sell them to small ancillary industries which then goes on to recycle them to produce various products.
What they make a day for their efforts? Barely a hundred rupees.
What are they risking by exposing themselves to not only the inorganic waste as well as organic?
Well, everything. Depending on source, inorganic wastes can contain anything between very harmful chemicals that corrode away at their exposed skin to toxic aerosols which on inhaling causes irreparable damage to their respiratory tract.
As for organic waste, sometimes they come in contact with even medical waste from small pathological labs, their bare fingers pricked by ill-disposed needles. That they are exposed to several more kinds of pathogens than we are, is an obvious conclusion here.
And yet, none of us ever stand to take notice of them. These ghosts silently clean up our surroundings and we barely acknowledge their existence, let alone our cities supplying them with proper equipment or protection, medical and material against the dangers of exposure to urban waste.
From suffering from severe cases of rabies to chronic Hepatitis B devouring their bodies to death from exposure, they go through it all. Yet, we still know not what to call them.
Image Source: flickr.com