The garbage pickers

It started when the lils were infants. As I walked them around our neighbourhood, I would stop and throw any garbage that I found on the street into the bottom of the stroller. As they got bigger, they started to point it out to me, then started to collect it themselves.  I wanted to teach them to have a little bit of pride in their community, and it worked. A little bit too much.  I had to start setting limits on how much they spent picking up the trash when all we would do is pick up litter at the park, instead of playing on the play structure.

Living in Bangalore was incredibly hard on us all because of the trash.  There is litter everywhere that you look.  We all wanted to do nothing more than clean up the city, but we couldn’t.  We actually didn’t even feel comfortable cleaning the trash, as it was really dirty.  There are many stray animals, far from healthy and clean, that lay in and on it, men and children were often seen going to the washroom anywhere and everywhere, and the volume of trash was mind blowing.  The lils always asked “why do so many people litter, don’t they care?”

The answer is that it’s complicated.  The areas of India that I lived in and visited lack the infrastructure and facilities to collect and process the garbage.  If there was collection, it was generally in the gated communities, and almost as much fell off the trucks as was collected. Once collected, I am not sure where it was taken to be “processed”, but I can guess that it was likely just incinerated in the open somewhere. In addition, modernization and rapid growth in the cities has meant that there are a wealth of products that are now made available at prices that many Indians can afford, they all come over packaged, and these cheaply made goods break easily. There are very few public spaces that have rubbish bins, and if they are present, they are old and damaged (or so was my experience). There are the people who don’t have space in their tiny dwellings to store trash for a collection that is never going to happen. Finally, there are the people who just don’t care, or come to feel that way after living with all the trash.  The end result is that it gets dumped on the streets, in the parks, the open fields and in the waterways.  It’s one of the factors that contributed (albeit in a minor way) to our decision not to stay in India.

We were happy to come home to the land of public receptacles, regular collection (well in Ottawa its semi-regular now), and a renewed interest in cutting down on the trash that we produce.  We’ve done pretty well, but the lils have noticed that there are still people in our community who, either intentionally or unintentionally, litter.  We notice it most on our walks to school, are really aware of the garbage that stays on the sidewalk and peoples lawns for days and days.  The lils started asking me to carry a trash bag a couple of weeks ago, and after about a week of false starts, we finally remembered to bring it with us.  Sure, our walks to school are a little bit longer now, but the lils are pretty proud to be cleaning up the ‘hood.

Category: life, Lils | 1 comment

  • smothemrother says:

    that is so awesome!

    i remember the gargabe in india. and where i lived was surrounded by 2 government sactioned slums. it was pretty overpowering at times. and then, unfortunately, you just kind of get used to it. :(

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