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We’re crucial to environment, ragpicker tells world

By Vaishali Balajiwale | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Maya Khodave is a rag picker in Nashik. She was is inChina last week, asserting the role of ragpickers in maintaining the world environment.

“Our work is dirty and hard, but it has real benefits for the larger society as recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves resources. Governments should recognise our work and cooperate with our efforts to improve our working conditions and increase recycling,” Maya, a leader of Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat, a union of waste pickers, told the international audience at the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Exuding confidence, Maya, who has studied up to Std V, enlightened the audience of the environmental balance that the work of waste pickers achieves.

At the United Nations negotiations on climate change, leaders of waste pickers’ organisations denounced waste-to-energy technologies and demanded recognition and financial support for their contribution to fighting climate change.

Two more waste pickers Baidabai Gaikwad (Pune) and Sushila Sable (Mumbai) have joined Maya in China.

“Currently, we get no benefits. The govt’s support would help us do our work more efficiently. With a little grant money, we can increase our recycling and produce biogas from the organic waste, instead of sending it to landfills,” added Maya who also takes care of her two children.

The decomposition of organic waste in landfills is a leading source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. “Recycling reduces emissions from deforestation, mining, manufacturing, transport and disposal. Nevertheless, the UNFCCC has not taken notice of waste or waste pickers. The Clean Development

Mechanism (CDM) has supported waste incinerators and landfill gas systems which have moved towards displacing waste pickers,” she added.

The CDM is a big problem, Maya said. “It finances private companies which are burning waste, which instead could be recycled and composted. That increases emissions and hurts us economically,” she said, quoting a report by Respect for Recyclers, documenting that the CDM has backed approximately 185 incinerators and landfill gas projects, but no recycling projects.

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