«In India, we have the most efficient recycling program in the world».

My host was adamant. India was unequaled in recycling. I was picturing a complex system of colour-coded bins of all shapes and sizes that would be transported across the country. I imagined that this recycling system would sort an impressive scale of waste. Yet during my stay in this house, I noticed that all unwanted or used items were placed together in a single plastic bag.

Early one morning, I was taking a few photos up on the balcony at sunrise. It was the only time of day that the air was cool and pleasant, a nice change from the unbearable heat in the afternoons. The streets were still quiet at this hour.

And then, in the early morning light, I saw the famous system at work. I watched the armed guards open the gates for the founders and creators of the most efficient recycling program in the world. Two men dividing, organizing, selling or trading every scrap of waste from every plastic bag outside of every house. No city uniforms. No equipment beyond their own plastic bags. Around the neighbourhood they went, house to house, their trolley before them, turning mountains of garbage into a few, very, very few, pieces of gold.

Efficient indeed.

According to the Hindustan Times, approximately 83% of the Municipal Solid Waste is collected in India. Then, 29% of what is collected is treated. Read the article by Poulomi Banerjee: Gone to waste: How India is drowning in garbage.

story © Lily-Madeleine Tremblay         image © Francis Tremblay