The rag-pickers collect the detritus of the rich and sell it to a "recycling agent" [rubbish baron], by the kilo. He in turn dumps it over a bridge where a small army of the poor and dispossessed who live the hovels beneath methodically begin to sort through it – metals, plastics, cardboard, human waste, batteries, paints, household chemicals… Everything has its price.
Counting back, the business of producing a single water bottle sustains about 10 different households. From the lowly child sorter who earns 100 rupees (£1.30) on a good day, right up to the great rubbish barons that can make 100,000 rupees a month and drive round in Indian-made Mahindra Scorpio four wheel drives.
Jan 16, 2006
India's rag and bone men
And women and children. Peter Foster takes us inside the lives of trash pickers in Dharavi, Bombay's largest slum.