These People Make Their Living Digging Through Garbage

Here’s a shocking number: The world produces 1.3 billion metric tons of garbage each year.

And that number is expected to double by 2025, according to the World Bank.

As Earth’s population continues to increase (along with its trash output), the ability to effectively manage all that waste management is becoming an ever-more-urgent concern.

India, with its population of nearly 1.3 billion people, produces nearly 110,000 metric tons of solid waste every day. It’s a colossal amount of garbage — and, surprisingly, it’s key to the livelihood of many impoverished families, who spend their days recovering recyclable materials from India’s landfills and garbage dumps to repurpose or sell.

Photographers in India captured this collection of images showing these “garbage pickers” salvaging the recyclable materials from trash dumps.

India currently produces about 40 million metric tons of garbage each year.

Much of that garbage ends up in heaps like this one in New Delhi, where two women are searching for recyclable materials.

By 2025, the World Bank estimates this number will rise to more than 137 million metric tons per year.

Meanwhile, the World Bank estimates that more than 300 million Indian citizens live in poverty. Many scavenge recyclable materials to make a living. These people are searching for recyclables in a garbage dump in New Delhi.

Sometimes, such people work with municipal waste management authorities, who pay them for their efforts. Here, a man fills a sack with recyclables at a garbage dump in Bangalore.

Plastic is an obvious target. This man is napping on top of a giant bag filled with plastic bottles on a roadside in New Delhi.

That plastic will end up in a facility like this recycling workshop in Mumbai, where a worker uses a rope to navigate through the heaps.

But plenty of other materials can bring a profit, as well. This man is stripping the copper wiring from electrical cables at a scrap shop in Dharavi.

This man is working at an iron scrap yard in Chennai.

Salvaged metal can be repurposed at metal parts recycling factories, like this one in Mumbai.

Even scrap leather has its uses. This leather will be made into fertiliser at a factory in Kolkata.

This boy is scavenging for plastic a dump in Guwahati -- but there are other places valuable materials can be found.

This boy is collecting floating recyclable materials from the waters of the river Sabarmati, which is in the city of Ahmedabad.

This boy, on the other hand, is collecting materials from a dried-up portion of the same river.

Working at recycling facilities is another way of getting by. This man is carting plastic drums to a facility in Mumbai.

Here, a man tosses a chair onto the furnace at an iron and steel factory in Jammu.

And this man washes out an old paint bucket for recycling at a facility in Mumbai.

Interested in more evidence of the Earth's pollution?

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