You see them scouring the streets. Hardly anyone gives them a second look.
Lugging a huge sack, they go around picking up wayside trash. And it's these ragpickers who actually do the city the great service of segregating waste.
Now, 80 such ragpickers have been formally inducted into the city's solid waste management scheme. Each one has been given an identity card.
The scheme was designed by Environment Information Systems (ENVIS), a nodal agency set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Thanks to the ragpickers' efforts, the city is finally getting 36,500 tonnes of its waste segregated and recycled.
That's a promise civic authorities had made after the 2005 deluge, a promise barely fulfilled.
"Ragpickers are the most important players in the process of solid waste management today," said Amiya Sahu, president of the National Solid Waste Association of India (NSWAI).
The ragpickers pick up wet and dry garbage from housing societies. "They segregate recyclable garbage and sell it to recyclers," said Sahu.
They are trained by various non-profit organisations - Stree Mukti Sanghatana, Forum of Recyclers' Communities and Environment (FORCE) and Apnalaya.
Every day, Mumbai generates over 10,000 metric tonnes of garbage. Of this, 1,000 metric tonnes are fully recyclable. A tenth of this recyclable waste is retrieved by the city's one lakh ragpickers.
That tots up to 36,500 metric tonnes of waste recycled annually.
However, the scheme could only be implemented in six wards. "Residents in other parts of the city don't even segregate dry and wet waste at source," said T.K. Bandopadhyay, ENVIS coordinator.
If the first level of segregation is not done at home, the scheme fails. "[Mixing] kitchen waste spoils dry waste. It makes recycling twice as difficult and costly. So, recyclers pay the ragpickers less," he said.