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No Rubbish, Here Come the Tech Savvy Garbage Collectors

In a warehouse in India’s IT capital Bengaluru, eight women and men sit on bast fibre mats, sorting through rubbish, their hands flying. Tetrapaks are tossed to the left, plastic bottles to the right, paper and cardboard behind them, old shoes in a sack in the corner, coconuts in a bin.

"My workers recognise 72 varieties of rubbish," says Mansoor proudly.

The 33-year-old was a waste picker a short time ago. Today he employs 10 families and numbers himself among the many entrepreneurs in the city of 8.5 million. “When the sacks come in the early morning, they are weighed, the results noted down on tablet computers and the rubbish collectors are paid,” the wiry young man explains cheerfully. "Then we sort and sell the products to recyclers."

He handles 15 tons of garbage per month, Mansoor says, almost bursting with pride as he speaks of his achievements: he provides his workers with uniforms and bicycles, has been allocated refuse sources reserved for him, keeps an eye on market prices and knows the best recycling customers. "It’s a good business," he says.