21 Nov 2011:
Garbage Pickers Protest
New Wave of Trash Incinerators
A growing coalition of poor workers who earn a living by scouring trash heaps for recyclables in the world’s poorest cities are protesting new incinerators being built
to convert that trash into electricity.
While the UN has encouraged the incinerators as a means of generating electricity and preventing methane emissions — and the Kyoto Protocol provides nations carbon credits for such projects — many workers say they depend on picking recyclable materials from the waste heaps for their livelihoods. In New Delhi this month, hundreds of waste workers gathered outside UN offices to protest 21 proposed incinerator projects for which India hopes to receive carbon credits. Similar coalitions are forming in Brazil, South Africa, and Colombia. Mahesh Babush, the chief executive for a firm developing numerous trash-to-energy projects in India, told the Washington Post
that the debate should be framed differently. “Do we want the ragpickers to continue working in inhuman, hell-on-earth, unhygienic conditions at these untreated dump sites?” he asked. “Should their sons and daughters do the same?” But critics say it is unrealistic to suggest those workers could find other work. In India alone, an estimated 1.7 million people earn a living by picking through garbage.
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
Yale Environment 360
articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia
, the online educational network. Visit the site.
Business & Innovation
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Antarctica and the Arctic
Central & South America
Photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s coral reefs, which are largely intact thanks to stifled coastal development in the communist nation. View the gallery.
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile
The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video, chronicles a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant. It was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Watch the video.
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
. © Google & TerraMetrics.
A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.