Nothing Left Behind

The idea of waste is probably a misconception. In Dharavi virtually everything is reused. The contribution of the recycling industry to the economy is thus big that words like residue and leftover might be trashed themselves. The recycling business provides three major components of economic activities. First, the processing of waste, secondly the supply of raw materials, and third a lot of labour, thus creating livelihood for very many people.

The essence of good reuse is in separation. The more materials are mixed up, the lesser their potential for a second life. Jobs in recycling are therefore mainly concerned with sorting and collecting. Especially sorting is very labour intensive. At the closure of the markets, garbage is sorted into fractions like fruit and vegetables, plastic bags, carboard boxes etcetera.

Biological waste is served as cattle food.

Waste is collected as much as possible on fixed locations. Often a small lot with three walls. Birds, goats, and dogs pick anything edible from and around containers. Textile residues from the fashion industry are used to fire the kilns of the potters.

This waste collection is temporarily out of use. A concrete floor was just cast. Goats are waiting till their familiar spot offers something to eat. Foot prints in the freshly poured concrete illustrate their impatience.

Sorting is very time consuming. While the truck is stuck in a traffic jam, copper wire is picked from electric motors. In the north-west of Dharavi, a whole neighbourhood is busy with recycling. Its name is Thirteenth Compound. One might find it a poetic name. Twelve is considered the number of wholeness, closing many cycles, whereas this hardly known side of our world is the actual closing link in the chain.

Thirteenth Compound is marked by huge quantities of goods stored on its roofs. Whereas everywhere in Dharavi roofs only serve as a protection against the fierce sun and the monsoon rains, the roofs in Thirteenth Compound are the warehouses for light weight goods. Primarily plastics. It weighs near to nothing but is voluminous. The roof is the perfect storage in this dense built area.

The scrap dealer is unloading his truck. Metals are easy to sort as their properties are very diverse. Copper, brass, and bronze have divergent colours. Aluminium is very light weighted. Iron is magnetic whereas other metals are not.

Rusty corrugated steel sheeting, if not for roofing, is used for fa├žades.

Tins and steel jerry cans for food purposes can be sold after cleaning. The future of such a can is destined by its condition. It returns to the original food factory (the spotless), to a manufacturer of something liquid (the second hand), or to a fuel and oil dealer (the slightly crushed).

All packaging materials like barrels and jerry cans are reused and sold. The same applies to cardboard boxes. Spotless boxes are sold back to the factory, already bearing the name of the manufacturer. Boxes in a lesser state are sold to transporter who do not care about the name. Movers, for example. Only worn out boxes are privileged to become raw material for the paper industry.

Amidst the dusty roofs of Dharavi, Thirteenth Compound is an oasis of colours.

1 comment:

  1. Great to revisit Dharavi via your images and commentary. I was on assignment there last year: http://bit.ly/78lhIG Interesting though – although I found reference to the Thirteenth Compound online and in one book (by a foreigner) I couldn't find one person on the ground in Dharavi over 3 weeks that knew or used that name (nor in Hindi or Marathi) Did you actually meet locals calling it that?