The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has recently started an initiative to clean up the mounds of plastic waste in Pirana, but the rag pickers have been doing just that for decades. They are the real warriors who have been contributing towards making the landfill site plastic waste-free since long before the civic body's announcement on the World Environment Day.
Every day, more than hundred people take up the task of segregating plastic bags, bottles, wrappers, etc, from solid waste. Later, they sell it as scrap for a small amount of money. On an average, each rag picker earns Rs 200 to Rs 250 a day.
A worker from Ganesh Nagar, Lila Bhil, who is in her, said: "It's more than ten years I am doing this task. It is unhealthy, I know, but this is our livelihood. The dumpsite feeds my family. I don't know about environment much but I'm sure I am doing valuable work"
Like Bhil, there are many families who have been working at the Pirana site for years. Rubina Shaikh along with her two daughters and a son pick plastic waste at the site. "We reach here around 10am and leave by 5pm. Our family income is around Rs 800 a day. We manage to get around 12 to 15 kg of plastic from waste, and by evening, we sell it."
Prolonged exposure to toxic gases emitting from the waste at Pirana also takes a toll on their heath. "When there is a fire, our eyes burn. During monsoon and Diwali festival it becomes risky to climb on the garbage and churn out plastic. But we can't leave this place under any circumstance," said Fizor Ansari, another rag picker.
The AMC allows them access to the site because they are helping the civic body's cause. "The civic body should provide them with masks and gloves. They are helping them reduce plastic waste from the dumpsite. It is because of them recycling of plastic is happening," said Kalim Siddique, social activist.
The AMC has also roped in a private party to recycle plastic waste. "We are collecting segregated waste. Dry and wet waste both contains plastic, but at the transfer stations with the help of some NGOs, people segregate recyclable waste. Also, there is a private player which is recycling plastic. But as of now we don't have the figures on how much waste have been segregated," said Harshad Soalnki, director, solid waste management.