What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?
Acceptance by the local government could be a barrier but so far, and given the results achieved, the government has been supportive and agreed to fund additional centers. The slow pace of government approvals and implementation of work will be a limitation in how fast we can move together. CHF counteracts this inertia by being ever present at local government meetings and staying on top of officials who approve projects at various stages.
As the program receives funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Caterpillar Foundation, changes in the funding scenario could also be a threat to the program. By working with local partners, engaging the local government and training the people involved in the project, we hope that the enterprises we created can be self-sustainable in a couple years.
Acceptance of the “informal” sector within officially sanctioned solutions is always a challenge. Despite being a large portion of the industry they are most often marginalized. We have made a huge step forward in getting the local government to officially “enumerate” waste collectors which will recognize they exist.
We will continue to adjust the operations of each recycling center to make sure that it is financially viable. The first enterprise that we set up, called Parivarthana, is viable generating a positive return for the last 7 months. Our partner, Christ University’s sorting centre and paper recycling unit have made more income than expense and are off setting the deficit being run in two other centers they manage in Ambedkarnagar and Rajendragar.
Tell us about your partnerships
a) Local government: The city provides the land and building costs for the centers; CHF is also helping the city government enumerate waste pickers across the city --estimated at 15,000 -- so they can be extended additional services and support;
b) Foundations: CHF uses money donated from Caterpillar Foundation and the Gates Foundation to kick-start operations;
c) Local partner NGOs: Working together and with CHF, these community-based organizations develop new solutions to the problems that they face and overcome them collectively. We work to strengthen local partner organizations to enable them to advocate for and provide better services to the urban poor, while creating employment opportunities.
The economic viability of these recycling units was piloted during the first 2-3 years of the program with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds. Now CHF has leveraged additional funding from the Caterpillar Foundation and the municipal government of Bangalore to open four more recycling centers across the city in the coming year, in addition to the three already established.
CHF focuses on giving a voice to the urban poor. We also seek to bring ideas from one city and transfer them to another, as what we did with the waste collectors of Nagpur and Pune.
Explain your selections
We received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2007 and were able to leverage this support to secure a grant from the Caterpillar Foundation. With this money, we got the waste center operations running. By engaging local government and NGO partners, the program has been able to expand to include more communities served and waste pickers employed. Both the number of households served and the number of women being employed have gradually increased. In addition to changing municipal policy, we have been able to change behavior toward recycling and public perception about waste collectors. With our partner Centre for Social Action, based at Christ University in Bangalore, CHF established a women-run enterprise that provides door-to-door waste collection services to 1,300 slum households and some 1,500 low-income, non-slum households. We’ve partnered with the local government to replicate this model in other areas. This enterprise manages all the waste of Christ University including pulping all the paper waste of the university and creating new paper products. The university also launched a zero waste campaign.
We have also established an agreement with Alliance of Indian Wastepickers (AIW), a national network of 35 organizations working with, and comprised of, informal recyclers, waste pickers and/or itinerant buyers. CHF is working with AIW to mobilize multiple stakeholders in Bangalore to formalize the role of waste collectors in the city’s waste management system and create a platform to give them a greater voice in policies that affect them.
How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?
In addition to extending our program in the three cities where we currently operate, Bangalore, Nagpur and Pune, we would like take it to different cities in India and to other countries. To date, CHF has facilitated other exchange visits between our programs in Ghana and India, for instance.
Within Bangalore, we plan to increase the number of waste pickers engaged in the project and the number of households benefiting from the recycling centers. By gaining the support of the local Bangalore government we are much more likely to be able to expand this program in the city. By securing the local government support and resources to enumerate informal waste collectors and scrap dealers in the city, for example, we will be able to create access points for them to receive government assistance and even financial services like bank accounts to protect the revolving loans of self help groups we establish.
Hundreds of informal waste collectors have improved their livelihoods through this program and thousands stand to benefit from greater legitimacy in the industry. In addition, many tons of waste is being recycled that would otherwise pack landfills. Our aim is to engage more waste collectors in neighboring slums and expand the services to other communities. We will provide training to the waste collectors on how to recycle waste but also give them training to manage the enterprises we are creating so that they can be self-sustainable.