How would you like blood on your hand?
Now you must be thinking — “what kind of stupid question it is?” “Who wants blood on their hand?”
But what if we tell you, we all have been a reason of someone’s misery (if not death) at some point of our lives.
What? You can’t recall it — Let us freshen up your memories.
Remember, when you threw away the broken glass into dustbin. It made your waste picker bleed that day.
Remember when you slipped your expired medicine into your trashcan. It actually made someone vomit that day.
Remember when you disposed of faulty lightbulb in your dustbin. It made someone sick that day.
In India, our waste disposal habit goes as far as
Simple, isn’t it?
Well it may save you some work for now (and that too not much), but this approach of ours have not only brought us to those mounting landfills and climate catastrophes, but also risking someone else’s life.
Today’s blog is the retrospection of our waste management habits and the danger it pose to our waste-pickers’ health. We’ll also discuss the best practices for waste disposal. So stay tuned with us ‘coz you don’t want anymore blood on your hand.
Your waste, their health
Unsegregated waste is a significant threat to the health and well-being of waste pickers. The waste that is not properly sorted contains hazardous materials such as chemicals, sharp objects, and infectious waste. These materials can cause serious health problems for waste pickers, including respiratory issues, skin diseases, and even fatal accidents.
One of the most significant dangers of unsegregated waste is the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals. Chemicals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium can be found in electronic waste, batteries, and other toxic materials. Exposure to these chemicals can lead to serious health problems, such as cancer, neurological damage, and reproductive disorders.
Furthermore, waste pickers are also at risk of exposure to infectious waste, such as medical waste and sewage. This can lead to the spread of diseases such as hepatitis, HIV, and tuberculosis. Waste pickers often work without protective gear, making them vulnerable to these diseases.
In addition to the physical hazards, waste pickers also face psychological trauma due to the nature of their work. They often work long hours in hazardous conditions, with little pay or job security. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Occupational Hazards and Injuries
Waste picking is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Sharp objects such as broken glass, needles, and nails are often found in waste, and waste pickers can easily injure themselves while sorting through the waste. Injuries can range from minor cuts and bruises to more serious injuries such as amputations.
In a study published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology in 2017 on ragpickers residing near the Deonar dumpsite in Mumbai, it was found that 75% waste pickers gets injured during their work as compared to 17% people in other occupations.
In addition to injuries caused by sharp objects, waste pickers are also at risk of falls, heat stroke, and other occupational hazards. Waste pickers often work in extreme weather conditions, such as extreme heat or cold, and they may not have access to clean drinking water or proper sanitation facilities.
A study published in the journal Human Factors in Healthcare reported that 95% of waste pickers complained of fatigue and 89% complained of headache after returning from their work.
Health Risks for Waste Pickers
Waste pickers are at risk of various health problems due to their exposure to unsegregated waste. The hazardous materials found in waste can cause respiratory problems, skin diseases, and even fatal accidents.
Working and breathing in an highly contaminated zones, respiratory problems are one of the most common health problems faced by waste pickers. Exposure to hazardous chemicals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium can lead to respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. The dust and other particulate matter in waste can also cause respiratory problems.
A study ‘Prevalence of health problems of rag pickers due to various hazards at Lucknow city’ reported that28% of waste pickers are prone to respiratory symptoms compared to others (average 15 per cent).
The study also shows that The prevalence of general health disorders such as fever (78%), cough and cold (83.5%), diarrhoea and dysentery (40%) was observed to be high in waste picking workers.
Since, in India, protective gears is the least of the concerns for waste pickers, skin diseases are another leading health problem faced by waste pickers. The hazardous materials found in waste can cause skin irritation, rashes, and other skin diseases. Waste pickers often work without protective gear, making them vulnerable to these diseases.
The study also reported that 22% of waste pickers experienced dermatological problems.
The Psychological Impact of Working with Waste
In addition to the physical hazards of waste picking, waste pickers also face psychological trauma due to the nature of their work. Waste picking is a difficult and often thankless job, and waste pickers often work long hours in hazardous conditions, with little pay or job security.
Waste pickers may also face social stigma and discrimination due to their occupation, further exacerbating their psychological trauma.
“The waste we pick isn’t ours, it is yours. And people call us dirty,” said Santosh, 3-year-old safai mitra (waste picker) at the Bhalswa landfill site in Delhi. “Despite our work of collecting and segregating everyone’s waste, we are given no dignity. There is no one to represent or recognise our interests or fight for our well-being.”
This can lead to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Proper Waste Segregation: A way to reverse this picture
Now you see, just because of saving some work of segregating the waste, how much danger we put our waste pickers into. Not to mention the pychological trauma they have to go through due to social & economical descrimanation.
However, this can all be reversed if we start segregating the waste. How? When you segregate the waste at your home, it presents more employment opportunities for the waste industry. It’ll also help your waste pickers to get more of such waste that can they can sell to the waste dealers.
Also, when waste is properly segregated, hazardous materials can be safely disposed of, reducing the risk of exposure to waste pickers. Furthermore, proper waste segregation makes it easier to recycle and reuse materials, reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. This reduces the environmental impact of waste and helps to create a more sustainable future.
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SCRAPBUDDY: Supporting Waste Picker Communities
Our founder’s father Mr. Vijender Garg had been into waste management industry from quite long. From there, Mr. Sachin Garg got the exposure to waste management. By time, he realized that there are many loopholes to this unorganized sector that are needed to be fixed to make the lives of waste pickers better, and to also optimize the waste recycling process.
Thus, came SCRAPBUDDY! With our innovative digital solutions, we want to embed the waste segregation habit among the prople, so our waste workers don’t have to deal with the hardship of working on contaminated unsegregated waste environment, and can earn the fair daily wages.