Rag picker goes to Rio to teach Latinos green lesson | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Rag picker goes to Rio to teach Latinos green lesson

After rummaging through the city’s waste for 29 years to earn a living, Sushila Sable, a member of Alliance of Indian Wastepickers (AIW), has risen to the other end of the waste management pyramid.

mumbai Updated: Jul 09, 2012 01:00 IST
Nikhil M Ghanekar

After rummaging through the city’s waste for 29 years to earn a living, Sushila Sable, a member of Alliance of Indian Wastepickers (AIW), has risen to the other end of the waste management pyramid.

The 45-year old grandmother from Kanjurmarg is spearheading a ‘zero waste movement’ comprising 3,000 women rag pickers, primarily training them in segregation and recycling of waste. She was also the lone former rag picker to represent India at last month’s Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Brazil from June 20 to 22.

At Rio de Janeiro, Sable addressed a crowd of rag pickers from Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Peru at the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers conference. She spoke about the decentralisation of waste management and a model for segregating and recycling wet waste used by Stree Mukti Sanghatana (SMS), a non-profit organisation she is attached to.

“To my surprise, I learnt at the conference that waste incineration, and not segregation, is practised in Latin American countries,” said Sable.

The movement, helmed by Sable, is run by Parisar Bhagini Vikas Sangh (PBVS), a trust set up in 2004 by SMS under the community development society program of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

PBVS trains rag pickers to open bank accounts, educates them on personal hygiene and trade of waste selling and, most importantly, recycling. They also help rag pickers form independent co-operatives to take up waste management contracts.

“Earlier, I used to feel like a part of the garbage that I used to sift through. But people at SMS made me realise how waste-picking is integral to a sustainable environment. We stress earning an income through selling dry waste,” Sable added.

Currently, the organisation is running eight biogas plants, which burn wet waste. The biogas is used in the kitchens of educational institutes and hospitals to cook food.

According to Jyoti Mhapsekar, president, SMS, their zero waste policy attracted a lot of attention at Rio. “In March, waste picker organisations from eight countries saw how our biogas plants function. Since biogas as a concept is not common in Latin American countries where waste incineration is the norm, many organisations showed interest in visiting our biogas facilities in Mumbai,” said Mhapsekar.

“We are also currently translating one of our films, ‘Why biogas plants?’, into Spanish and Portuguese to send it to organisations in Latin America,” Mhapsekar added.