That seems a wonderful idea.
There are people on the GAIA list who have connections with the Delhi
wastepickers. I'm no longer on the GAIA list, but I'm sure someone
who is could forward this to it.
At 04:31 PM 8/7/2008 -0700, Mary Lou Van Deventer wrote:
In Berkeley, California, Urban
Ore also salvages at the dump - just like these people. We've done
it for 28 years under license to the City. We specialize in reuse
but also know how to salvage for recycling. In Berkeley's case we
now work at a modern transfer station. But we started in the old
open dump before it even complied with sanitary landfill
requirements. Maybe we could help these people formalize their work
and leapfrog into the new paradigm.
If it's carbon trading the nation wants, we can demonstrate how to
salvage, sort, and quantify materials recovered. Then conversion
factors could calculate GHGs prevented. That would not only prevent
the landfill's methane, carbon dioxide, dioxins, and ash, but would also
produce economic development potential for enterprises that could use the
recovered resources as feedstocks.
It would be interesting to help upgrade this kind of traditional
work. We would be soooo much cheaper than an incinerator and
produce far more benefits. Does anybody know how to reach somebody
official who could make a connection?
Mary Lou Van Deventer
900 Murray St.
Berkeley, CA 94710
On Aug 6, 2008, at 8:38 PM, Alan Muller wrote:
Aside from the "human
interest," I think this article speaks loudly to the perversities of
some very mainstream global warming scams.
Wednesday 06 August 2008
by: Daphne Wysham, Mother Jones
Trash pickers collect garbage in New Delhi, India. (Photo: AFP / Getty
July/August 2008 Issue
India's waste-pickers - often women and children -
join free-ranging cows and other less-sacred animals in a daily forage
through the garbage of the streets. They've been recycling trash for
decades, since long before recycling became fashionable in the West, and
in Delhi, a 13-million-person metropolis, the waste-pickers number in the
tens of thousands. For slum-dwellers, such recycling of plastic, paper,
and metals - anything that can be turned into cash - is often the only
source of income.
Bharati Chaturvedi, the director and cofounder of
Chintan, a small Indian NGO that provides education to waste-pickers,
claims that more than one percent of Delhi's population sifts through
garbage, recycling as much as 59 percent of the city's waste. "These
waste-pickers are providing a public service - for free," she
That may soon change. A new waste incinerator that
turns trash into electricity [wrong. am] is slated to be built in
Timarpur, a suburb of Delhi. Because it will reduce the amount of methane
off-gassed by landfills, it will generate carbon credits under the Kyoto
Protocol. But the incinerator will also emit cancer-causing dioxins,
mercury, heavy metals and fly ash. Are the carbon credits available under
Kyoto's Clean Development Mechanism worth putting thousands of
impoverished waste-pickers out of business?
Kyoto's CDM was originally established to help finance
clean energy projects in the developing world. Under the CDM, carbon
credits generated in a poor country can be sold to a rich country,
allowing that rich country to count the "emissions reductions"
achieved in the poor country toward their own domestic carbon emissions
targets. However, the CDM is rapidly becoming a subsidy for some of the
dirtier industries-making coal-fired power plants slightly more fuel
efficient, for example, or capturing waste heat from steel plants - and
some brokers are growing rich on the schemes. The World Bank has handled
many of these deals, charging a 13 percent commission on all of the
carbon trades it brokers.
The Timarpur incinerator may be the first in a series
of incinerators globally to benefit from the burgeoning global carbon
market, despite India's informal and effective recycling industry and
generally hostile posture toward incinerators. "We had managed to
stop half a dozen of these dubious projects in the past," says Gopal
Krishna, a public health researcher at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New
Delhi. "But this time around, in the name of carbon credits,
fraudulent claims are being made with impunity."
In Timarpur's case, the argument goes as follows:
Incinerators will generate energy from waste; that waste used as fuel
displaces fossil fuel use; thus all of the CO2 emissions that would have
been generated had the energy come from fossil fuels should now qualify
for carbon credit. To make the offer even more lucrative, incinerator
companies can claim they are capturing and burning the methane that would
have been released from rotting garbage. Because methane is a greenhouse
gas 24 times more potent than CO2, the logic goes, in burning it, this
incinerator avoids the release of tons of potent methane gas, releasing
its far weaker cousin, CO2. A previous proposal to build a waste
incinerator in Delhi in the early 1990s died a quiet death. The reason:
"Delhi's garbage doesn't have enough burnable matter," says
Neil Tangri of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. "It
tends to be too wet, containing too much ash and sand and noncombustible
inert materials." In other words, it doesn't contain much
combustible material like plastic and paper - thanks in large part to the
A white paper produced by India's Ministry of
Environment and Forests in 1997 concluded that incineration in the Delhi
region was "not feasible" and that composting was the preferred
Such projects are a far cry from the "clean
development" the CDM was intended to subsidize. However, there are
more concerns: how to dispose of fly ash, the remains of incinerated
waste. "I've been all over India," says Patricia Costner,
science adviser to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
(GAIA) and to the International POPS Elimination Network. "I know
what happens to incinerator ash. Most of it ends up by the side of the
road. There are no engineered landfills in India. Fly ash and bottom ash
is required to be managed very carefully in most countries, but in India,
they simply do not have the infrastructure to do that."
The improper disposal of incinerator waste presents a
new problem for Delhi's poorest residents. "When waste-pickers are
denied access to the waste stream, they go through the ash, looking for
metal, the only substance to survive incineration intact," says Neil
Tangri, waste and climate change campaign director for GAIA. "I've
seen people thigh-deep picking through incinerator ash for metals. You're
using the human body as a toxic absorber - you're basically spoon-feeding
it to these people."
According to Tangri, the waste-pickers are now being
harassed and denied access to the dry, high-calorie items the incinerator
will devour. "They are effectively denying a livelihood to the
poorest of the poor in setting up this incinerator," says
Chaturvedi. "To take that miserable existence away, it's criminal.
And now we're seeing skyrocketing food prices. What will these people do?
Huge local skills in recycling are now being wiped out, skills essential
for a sustainable society."
Daphne Wysham is a fellow at the Institute for
Policy Studies in Washington, DC, and cohost of Earthbeat Radio.
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