Hair for wigs, cattle feed: Delhi’s Ghazipur garbage dump not total waste for some
While a kilo of human hair sells at Rs 1,500–Rs 2000, discarded food could fetch up to Rs 4 per kg. Metals and alloys like copper, bell metal, brass could sell for around Rs 300 – Rs 350 a kg.Updated: Sep 04, 2017 11:41 IST
The Ghazipur landfill was not just a source of sustenance for the local rag pickers, but also used to support an entire ecosystem of other small scale businesses – from local dairies to wig industry – that had evolved around it over the past three decades.
“Most of the things which you discard are valuable to us. It could be half-eaten roti (bread) or your hair, which falls off, and you just throw it in the waste bin. They ultimately reach the dumping yard and we collect them to sell them off,” said Angina Begum, 50.
With the authorities deciding to shut down the dumping ground, which now resembles a huge garbage mountain, the locals as well as the experts feel that this entire ecosystem would now be affected as one of the primary sources – the landfill – would be now out of bound for the rag pickers.
While a kilo of human hair (preferably the long ones) sells at Rs 1500-2000, discarded food could fetch up to Rs 4 per kilo. Metals and alloys like copper, bell metal, brass could sell for around Rs 300-350 for a kilo.
“Though we find human hair in very small quantities, it fetches high price. Every day some of us could find around 50 - 100 grams of human hair. We store it in our house and sell it to a man who comes every week to collect them. They are sent to the wig industry that has cropped up in Shastri Park,” said Alauddin, a rag picker.
While the rag pickers sometimes eat the food which they find in the dump yard, most of the food is stale and is sold to local diaries and poultry firms. There, it is used to feed the animals.
“While most of the leafy vegetables come from the sabzi mandi, some food also used to come from the dumping ground through rag pickers. They used to sell the items at throwaway prices and we bought them to feed the cattle,” said Ram Singh who owns around 7-8 buffaloes in the area.
Hundreds of traders, each specialised and buying a specific kind of waste, depend on these rag pickers and their collection. The rag pickers look out for around 40 items.
“There are traders who deal with plastic, some deal with metal scraps while others deal with paper. Either they come to our shanties on a particular day every week or we go them and sell our products,” said Ambiya Bibi a rag picker.
Experts claimed that the rag pickers by collecting the waste used to do a very valuable job in recycling and reusing a portion of the waste.
“Over the years an entire chain of industries has developed centering around this dumping ground. If this is shut down, the entire chain would be affected. Some may lose their jobs too,” said Chitra Mukherjee head of programs at Chintan, an NGO.