Full circle: a different take on trash

In the field article written on the 18 Nov 2011

Photo: Akshay Mahajan/OxfamAUS

Here in Australia, most of us toss our rubbish in the bin without a second thought. In the western Indian city of Pune, thousands of families depend on rubbish for their survival. They live on the money earned by workers — mostly women — who collect, sort and sell waste to scrap traders. Exclusively from low-caste groups, often known as ”untouchables”, these waste pickers are vulnerable to extreme poverty, and the disease and hunger that accompany it.

But over recent years, with the help of Oxfam partner SNDT Women’s University’s Department of Continuing and Adult Education and Extension Work, and aid funding, these waste pickers have achieved some remarkable things. Working with the local council, they’ve funded a health insurance scheme for waste pickers and formed a cooperative. They’ve also established their own scrap shop, aptly named Fruits of our Labour, cutting out the middle man and boosting their income.

Full Circle is an eye-opening and moving short film that gives us a glimpse into the lives of the Pune waste pickers: the progress they’ve made, their often trying work conditions (rummaging through trash while fending off stray dogs, for example), their important environmental role, and their hopes for the future. View the video above.
Find out more about Oxfam’s work in India