The Yamuna River flows through Delhi, is siphoned nearly dry above the city, passes through the bodies of 18 million people, then is put back in the river downstream, largely untreated raw sewage. We took a boat there. This river is dead. No fish. It’s black and bubbles with methane. Millions of plastic bags are stuck against the footings of bridges. “Where are the plastic bottles?” I thought.
More than a year ago we joined Bharati Chaturvedi, the director of Chintan, to learn about the plight of waste and wastepickers in India. “They do a great service to India, recovering more than 42% of the plastic waste produced in our country. They deserve all the same rights as everyone else.” We met a wastepicker, or “Sanitation Engineer”, in a slum near the US Embassy. His name is Minar and he collects plastic bottles to feed his family.
I asked him, “I was in the Yamuna River yesterday. I saw only plastic bags.”
He interrupted me, “That’s because I pick up all the bottles.”
“Well, why don’t you pick up plastic bags?”
This started a long conversation about design for recovery. Plastic bags fail to be “recoverable”. Minar said, “I need to wash the bags, but if there’s still a pinch of sand in them they will be twice as heavy. If my buyer thinks I’m trying to cheat with dirty plastic, then he will not buy my bottles either, so no one touches dirty plastic bags.
“Chintan” needs your help. They are competing for a Google – the Global Impact Award. Bharati emailed me a note this morning stating, “We want a trash-free India, and to improve the destiny of wastepickers. Will you help us? Will you vote here?
Please join us in supporting our partner on the other side of the world.