DEMONETISATION HAS cut plastic recycling down to half over the past one month, claim recyclers in Dharavi.
The estimated 300 small scale units in Sanaullah Compound, off Dharavi’s main road, handle close to 70 per cent of Mumbai’s scrap plastic, according to Hariram Tanwar, the general secretary of the All Plastic Recyclers Association.
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“Before November 9, we were collectively handling 40,000 tonnes of scrap plastic every day. Demonetisation has hit every player in the recycling chain very hard, but ragpickers and daily wage workers are the worst affected,” he says.
At Sanaullah Compound, the movement of trucks laden with plastic has severely dwindled. “Yahan toh pehle kabhi raat hi nahi hoti thi (earlier, the day never ended here),” claims Khwaja Qureshi, a recycler of automobile parts.
Only a few trucks now line the lane outside his unit. Qureshi said that there wasn’t enough work — ragpickers were leaving work in droves because they weren’t receiving money from small scrap dealers. “There is just not enough small currency in the market to pay ragpickers. If they stop collecting and passing plastic on to scrap dealers, Mumbai is going to face a major garbage pile-up,” he says.
A few lanes away, another recycler, Imran Khan, says his daily intake of plastic has reduced from 2,000 kg to 600 kg. “We are barely able to pay our workers. To retain them we have made advance payments to ration shops to ensure they don’t run out of essential supplies.”
Qureshi adds that a lot of migrant workers in Dharavi’s plastic recycling businesses, a bulk of whom are from Uttar Pradesh, are choosing to go back home.
“In their villages, they have farmland and the security of food even if they don’t earn,” he says.
“There is not even enough money to pay the transporters. Forget transport, yesterday, I didn’t have Rs 500 to pay one of my workers and he threatened to quit. I promised him that I would go to the bank and bring some money, but the lines are too long,” Qureshi adds.
At Khan’s godown, there was a spurt of activity on Tuesday after a lengthy lull: the transporter had finally sent a truck. “We have no choice but to pay the transporter with a cheque, but we can’t do that with a daily wage worker,” he says.