GreenYes Archives

[GreenYes Archives] - [Thread Index] - [Date Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]

[GreenYes] Re: The Waste-Pickers of Delhi [vs incineration]

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 
Urban Ore 
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.


The Waste-Pickers of Delhi

Wednesday 06 August 2008

by: Daphne Wysham, Mother Jones

Trash pickers collect garbage in New Delhi, India. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

    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 says.

    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 diligent waste-pickers.

    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 route.

    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.

You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "GreenYes" group.
To post to this group, send email to GreenYes@no.address
To unsubscribe from this group, send email to GreenYes+unsubscribe@no.address
For more options, visit this group at

[GreenYes Archives] - [Date Index] - [Thread Index]
[Date Prev] - [Date Next] - [Thread Prev] - [Thread Next]