In this paper, Waste pickers and collectors in Delhi, who constitute the bottom layer of waste recycling as well as an informal sector in the city, are primarily focused on. This paper explores two aspects of “waste pickers and collectors” with the authors’ field survey. One is socio-economic characteristic of pickers and collectors. As described later, socio-economic characteristics such as Origin, Level of living and the Way of operation are strikingly different between pickers and collectors. The paper investigates not only those characteristics themselves but also a background where the distinctions stemmed from. Later, the study attempts to measure their contribution on the society, which might characterize this paper from the previous studies.
As stated before, the targets of this study are grouped in two. One is “waste pickers” and the other is “waste collectors”. Both groups share similar characteristics in a way they operate their business as they sell collected waste to higher level traders (i.e., Dealers or Wholesellers) and yield their profit. However, they are different in a critical point. Pickers need no capital for picking up their waste, whereas collectors buy their waste in cash from households or other waste producers so that collectors essentially need some capital for their business operation.
The authors conducted three-round field surveys by means of a questionnaire covering pickers and collectors, waste producers and upper-level traders (including dealers, wholesalers and recycling plants), and supplemental survey, respectively. The number of observations is, as the authors admit, statistically small as summarized in Table 1. For example, number of respondents from both pickers and collectors is 35.
The results of the surveys, which are summarized in Table 2 through 4, clarify socio-economics similarities and distinctions between the two groups. Both group shares some similarities in the proportion of religions, age and sex, or their low level of education.
On the other hand, the difference in their origins is worth to emphasize. Even though members in both groups are mostly migrants from rural area, we can find the difference in a distance from Delhi to where they came from. The majority of pickers migrated from faraway states (e.g. Bihar and West Bengal, eastern states) whereas that of collectors is from the neighboring states (e.g. Uttar Pradesh, UP). It is also clear that the way they convey their wastes differs as pickers mostly use their own back only with some supplemental use of rickshaw cart but collectors mostly use rickshaw cart only.
Gaps in both income and poverty level between two groups can be seen from Table 5 and 6. Average income per capita per day of pickers is about half of collectors’, and about 90 percent of pickers are below the poverty line set by Planning Commission, while only about 20 percent of collectors stays below the line.
The problem of pickers is not only that they currently suffer...