Recycling Mumbai -December 2007-

People from around the country come to the city to fulfill their dreams, but many of them end up in slums; it is estimated that more than half of the city’s population live in squalor. At the heart of the city – surrounded by posh, luxurious skyscrapers – is Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi. It spreads over 212 hectares and is home to more than a million people. The majority of the place is a plastic recycling industry that employs almost 200,000 people. Walking through Dharavi, home to an estimated 15,000 single room factories, it is difficult to find anything that is not recycled here. The plastic, which comes in all forms, including bottles, boxes, pens, is first sorted according to color and quality. Next, the plastic is ground into flakes and sold to a granule maker. In his factory, the plastic flakes are washed, dried, melted, squeezed into wires and then chopped into pellets. These pellets are then used to make different types of products. Most of the waste is collected from various households and commercial buildings by housemaids and servants who then bring it to Dharavi for recycling. Even the rag pickers roaming the streets of Mumbai help in collecting the waste. But this extraordinary way of recycling may soon come to an end. The government has provisionally approved a plan called “Vision Mumbai”, which aims to create a world-class city by 2013. Under the plan, Dharavi will be demolished and replaced with flats in high-rise blocks for the slum dwellers, and the rest of the land will be used for shopping malls and luxury apartments.