Solid Waste Management (SWM) is one of the key functions of any municipality. It is prominent as a public health and aesthetic concern of the city. The Corporation of Chennai devotes a sizable proportion of it’s resources, time and labour to SWM, in spite of this hundreds of tons of waste go uncollected daily and slums and low income settlements in particular find themselves chronically under-served. Furthermore, the ‘garbage problem’ is usually framed only as a public health or aesthetic problem with the livelihood aspect scarcely acknowledged. This is despite the fact that thousands in the city are dependent on municipal solid waste for livelihood. Waste-pickers, itinerant buyers (known locally as pazhaya paper kaarans or raddiwalas), and scrap dealers all form a longstanding and robust network across the city as the informal sector in the waste industry. The informal sector (primarily, waste pickers) is responsible for most of the recycling that happens in the city and therefore for reducing the city’s carbon footprint. Yet the contributions of waste pickers are unrecognized and the formal system makes no accommodations for them. As a result they are highly vulnerable to harassment and displacement.
This page collects our research and activities focused both on informal workers and the waste sector in general. Our work centres on research and promotion of sustainable and inclusive Solid Waste Management in Chennai. It is aimed at filling gaps in knowledge and understanding about waste, it’s management and the actors involved through both qualitative and quantitative research. Our primary focus at this time is the role and contribution of ‘waste-pickers’ or informal waste workers (popularly known as ‘ragpickers’) in the city’s waste scenario.
The team conducted an extensive sample survey of approximately 750 households and 50 small commercial establishments on waste generation and composition in ward 173. The results of the survey are being used to propose a sustainable solid waste management model to the Corporation. We also hope that this methodology itself form a model for how to plan for SWM. The materials developed for this survey are presented here.
Aside from research, we engage with both Governmental agencies as well as a diverse group of non-governmental actors (including RWAs, workers groups, other researchers, etc.) to promote sustainable waste management and livelihood rights of waste-pickers.
Report on the Innovation Workshop (English) (1916)
Report on the Innovation Workshop (Tamil) (1657)
SWM and the Informal Sector: Experiences and Experiments from Pune, Bangalore and Mumbai (2466)
Brief on Research Presented on Solid Waste Management and the Informal Sector in Chennai at the Scenario Workshop (2301)
Law and Policy: Barriers to the Informal Sector (1612)
Bulk Waste Producers in Chennai: A Preliminary Investigation (3255)
Municipal Solid Waste Management: Role of the Informal Sector in Chennai (2112)
Brochure Given to Participating Households and Stores (English) (1577)
Brochure Given to Participating Households and Stores (Tamil) (1421)
Segregation Cheat Sheet (English) (4049)
Segregation Cheat Sheet (Tamil) (1493)
Segregation Sticker for dustbins (1172)
Instructions for survey participants (English) (1765)
Instructions for survey participants (Tamil) (1315)
Survey administered to household participants (1388)
Survey administered to shop participants (1594)
Brief Note on Sample Survey on Municipal Solid Waste in Ward 173 (10.10.2013) (1440)
Brief Note on ID Cards (09.10.2013) (1417)
Report on the Health Camp held at Perungudi dumpsite on 08-09.06.2013) (6933)
RTI Application Regarding SWM Operations (1304)
RTI Application Regarding SWM Staff (1250)
RTI Application Regarding SWM Budget and Finances (1236)
RTI Application Regarding SWM Private Contractors (1264)
Collated Responses to RTI Applications (1521)