In cities and towns, one often comes across heaps of garbage on roadsides and poor — mostly slum dwellers, children — hovering around the pile. These people are mostly ignored by authorities as well as rich and middle-class elites. Waste pickers are the lowest in the hierarchy of urban informal occupation.

The term ‘waste picker’ was adopted in the First World Conference of Waste Pickers in Bogota, Columbia in 2008 to facilitate global networking and supplant derogatory words like ‘scavenger’. Work situation differs greatly across countries but the common thing is that this work is their livelihood and often supports their families.

Number of waste pickers in the country is not easily available. Some estimates city- wise have been recorded. For instance, in Ahmedabad, they are estimated to be about 30,000 mostly women and children. In the state of Gujarat, according to a study, there are estimated 100,000 waste pickers. Delhi alone has approximately 100,000 waste pickers according to another study. Pune has 6,000, of whom 72% are women, according to a study. Read More