Bengaluru, June 2022: BBC Media Action today announced the launch of #Invaluable Recyclers, the second phase of the ‘Invaluables’ initiative to highlight the role and contribution of informal waste pickers in Bengaluru’s circular economy. BBC Media Action has collaborated with musician Vasu Dixit to release a song titled ‘Happy Number’ that highlights the contribution of the city’s waste pickers, which is the diversion of a staggering 383,250 tonnes of waste from reaching landfills, by collecting and recycling plastic and other recyclable waste materials generated in the city. Waste accumulation in landfills has immense negative environmental impact contributing to air, water and soil pollution, and climate change.
The song was released at a press conference organised by BBC Media Action and its partners in the city today, in the presence of musician Vasu Dixit, environmentalist Vaani Murthy, and actor and comic, Shraddha Jain and is intended at driving awareness and compassion among Bengalureans for the waste picker community.
Bengaluru is India’s Silicon Valley and home to over 22,500 informal waste pickers, who form the backbone of city’s waste management system. They ensure only non-recyclable materials end up at the already overflowing landfills.
Talking about the #InvaluableRecyclers, Soma Katiyar, Executive Creative Director, BBC Media Action said, “Thanks to the pandemic, numbers have become scary, harbingers of the worst possible news! But here’s a ‘happy number’ that we need to know about and celebrate – an estimated 38,32,50,000 kilograms of waste stopped from being added to already overflowing landfills by the informal waste pickers of Bengaluru. We see them as silent environmentalists. They are the first step in the waste recycling value chain. This song celebrates the invaluable work they do for the city and a tribute to them – the #InvaluableRecyclers. Through this Happy Number song and campaign, BBC Media Action wants to highlight their role in the city’s circular economy, celebrating the skills and expertise they bring to the profession of waste picking”.
Musician Vasu Dixit (@dixitvasu) who composed the Happy Number song said, “We as citizens have a responsibility towards the informal waste pickers of Bengaluru – of treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve for protecting our environment. And most importantly, ensuring that the waste we give them remains recyclable. The Happy Number song was a great opportunity for me to celebrate them and their work. It would be a dream come true if Bengalureans sing along and recognise waste pickers for what they do.”
BBC Media Action’s research in Bengaluru showed that even though waste on the streets is visible, and is of concern, informal waste pickers remain virtually ‘invisible’ to most people. Nearly 55% of respondents said that informal waste pickers are dirty in appearance while 56% believed that they shouldn’t be allowed in building complexes and societies.
Shraddha Jain (@AiyyoShraddha), a popular comic, and actor who also collaborated in the previous phase of the campaign said, “I consider it a privilege to amplify this Happy Number song. What waste pickers do for Bengaluru is important and there’s no question that their skilled work makes our lives livable. Happy Number and the #InvaluableReclyers campaign underline their role, and the people of Bengaluru need to recognise their contribution.”
For plastic to be recycled effectively, materials are sorted by waste pickers into over 35 to 70 categories depending upon the type of Godown. Sorters are skilled and experienced in identifying materials based on appearance, touch sound and thickness.
Vani Murthy (@WormRani), an environmentalist who is passionate about composting and urban farming said, “Informal waste pickers play a vital role in collecting and recycling plastic and PET waste generated from the city. If we take simple actions, like washing plastic food containers before discarding them as waste, this not only keeps the plastic fit for recycling but also makes the job of waste pickers easier and protects them from the risk of contamination rotting food or waste. Together, let us acknowledge and respect people who know the value of the waste we discard”
#InvaluableRecyclers by BBC Media Action is the second phase of the #Invaluables social media campaign to shift perceptions about waste picking and informal waste pickers in the city of Bengaluru. Research after the previous phase of the campaign showed an increase of nearly 6% among respondents in awareness of informal waste pickers, and their contribution in helping the environment through waste picking and sorting.
BBC Media Action’s work is part of the H&M Foundation funded Saamuhika Shakti initiative, to improve the lives of informal waste pickers in Bengaluru. Partners of this collaborative include CARE India, Hasiru Dala, LabourNet, Save the Children, Social Alpha and WaterAid, along with The Nudge Foundation serving as the backbone organisation for the intervention.