In the early 1970s, Suman More moved to Pune, in western India, from a nearby village to be married at just 12 years old. Her new husband lacked a stable job, so she was forced to work. However, with no education or training, More could only find work as an informal waste picker, rummaging through garbage bins and landfills for recyclables to sell. But that barely paid the bills.
In 2008, More joined the waste pickers’ service cooperative, Solid Waste Collection Handling Seva Sanskari Sanstha Maryadit (SWaCH), a solid-waste, door-to-door collection agency managed by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). SWaCH provided her with the security she needed. “I got a fixed income every month, safe working conditions, and the identity of a city worker by the municipal corporation,” says More, who, now in her 50s, has retired from waste picking and currently chairs the cooperative.
Pune-based social activists Lakshmi Narayan and Poornima Chikarmane founded SWaCH in 2008 to integrate informal waste pickers like More into the city’s waste management system. “We wanted the waste pickers to be recognized as a critical part of the solid waste management system in the city and the first rung of the recycling chain,” says Chikarmane, a retired professor at Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey (SNDT) Women’s University, Pune.
Read the full article about waste pickers by Priti Salian at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
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