Suman at work in Osmanabad
Our work in Osmanabad has employed 60 waste pickers and drivers to provide daily collection for 26,000 households. This project broke new ground, as it was the first integrated solid waste management contract provided to a waste picker cooperative. These women and men have had a secure and stable salary, and a safe place to work. They also did more than just collect garbage from people's doorsteps. In response to a special request from the city leaders, they also spent extra time shoveling piles of waste from roadsides and empty lots - to clean up the city after years of non-existent waste management.
Despite this enormous improvement to the cleanliness of the city and jobs for some of its poorest residents, political conflicts that recently broke out in the city have prevented payments on our contract and jeopardized the salaries for the waste collectors. We have frozen our project in Osmanabad, and are assisting the waste picker cooperative to pursue legal action against the municipal leaders for breach of contract.
While tempting to paint all municipalities with a broad negative brushstroke, Waste Ventures has spent time understanding critical learnings from this experience.
- Insisting on a collection of a household fee so we may minimize municipal involvement to a one-time provision of land/ capital equipment at the beginning of the project: This ensures a market- transaction that ensures services are valued while also minimizing risk due to political conflict
- Training a local operations manager with both social capital and a pulse of the local political situation that may appropriately react to the situation
We are also starting projects from the ground up that build customer relationships with the households themselves we’ve designed a model in which we employ waste collectors to collect garbage daily from households for a monthly fee of $1. The waste pickers earn even more by sorting and selling the waste to our processing centers, achieving the same aims of tripling their income, improving their health conditions, and putting their kids in school. The system starts modestly and builds quickly upon success – allowing us to learn quickly from both success and failure.
Your generous donations have been set aside to be used for funding our first waste pickers hired under the household model. But, we want you to have a say. If you would prefer for your donation to be used for the waste pickers in Osmanabad, we can apply your gift towards taking the municipal leaders of Osmanabad to court to hold them responsible for their breach of contract. Just let us know.
If it’s alright with you, we will continue to update you with our progress in a transparent and honest manner. Changing the status quo in developing world solid waste management is not an easy task but we are not going anywhere. We are as focused as ever to bring equity to the 1.5 million waste pickers in India that suffer through hazardous conditions to earn less than $2 a day while also reducing environmental damage and creating a sustainable market-based system.