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Jan 24, 2012

Informal Recycling - Benefits to Community and the Environment

1. Community Gain and Cheap Service
2. Environmental Gain and Carbon Offsets

1. Community Gain and Cheap Service

Waste-pickers and scrap-dealers provide a low-cost service to the community. In Delhi, the informal sector collects and transports about 1,088 TPD of recyclables (33) which would otherwise be the responsibility of the municipality. In doing so, they save $ 17.8 million (INR 795 million) per year in collection and transportation costs to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) (33) (34) (35). Similarly, a study named “Recycling Livelihoods”, made by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ, earlier GTZ), SNDT Women’s University and Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group (Chintan) has found that, the informal sector effectively subsidizes the formal waste sector to the extent of USD 4.08 million (INR 200.6 million) per year in waste handling costs in Pune city (36).
Figure 25, Secondary Separation of Waste Paper at a Bulk Waste Paper Dealer Shop
In addition to subsidizing the formal sector and in turn the tax payer’s money, the informal sector also provides an essential service to the community by clearing the streets off waste and augments the collection efficiency of formal systems. The informal recycling sector in Pune is known to handle up to one-thirds of the MSW handled by the formal system (36).
Informal recycling also helps reduce the overall life-cycle impacts of materials by helping to recycle them, reducing the need for additional extraction of virgin raw materials and manufacturing.
Recovery of recyclable materials by the informal system is up to 56% (GIZ estimates 89% in Pune (36); other sources and general consensus suggest 70% (37) as compared to the formal sector where no recovery takes place. The sector also provides livelihood to the marginalized populations among urban poor by providing twice as many jobs as the formal system. In Pune city alone, the informal system operates at a net profit of USD 12.7 million (INR 621 million) per year (36). Even though these revenues are not distributed evenly amongst the populations involved in this sector, the average earnings of the least well-off exceed the statutory minimum wage. This sector achieves such high profits by enhancing “the value of a unit of plastic (as an example) by 750% before it is even reprocessed” (36).

2. Environmental Gain and Carbon Offsets

In addition to providing a cheap service to the community, the informal recycling sector also contributes towards reducing the global warming effect, since recycling has an obvious greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction. Another study by Chintan in 2009, “Cooling Agents” estimates that the informal sector avoids 1 million tons of CO2 equivalents of GHG emissions in Delhi alone, by collecting 476 TPD of mixed paper, 510 TPD of mixed plastics, 17 TPD of metals and 85 TPD of glass (Total 1,088 TPD of MSW) (33).

Informal recycling also helps reduce the overall life-cycle impacts of materials by helping to recycle them, reducing the need for extraction of virgin raw materials and manufacturing. Recovery of recyclable materials by the informal system is up to 56%.

The monetized environmental benefit on account of the informal system is higher than the environmental costs of the formal system. Also, the use of non renewable energy resources by the informal system for transportation and processing of waste is minimal.


  1. I like your blog post. Keep on writing this type of great stuff. I'll make sure to follow up on your blog in the future.
    Jay Katari

  2. Thank you Jay. Just read your profile. Wonderful stuff. Keep it up. It is interesting to hear about textile recycling happening at such a large scale.

    All the best
    Ranjith Annepu

  3. Thank you for sharing this information with us and I heard that some business owners are looking for a trustworthy financial planners.

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  4. This is the first time I am visiting your blog. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here!
    Recycling of Waste in Bangalore

  5. I am trying to get more into recycling so I have been visiting a bottle return depot in Calgary every other week to donate my used bottles. Makes me feel like I'm doing my part to save the planet!

  6. This post is really nice and informative. The explanation given is really comprehensive and informative. I am feeling happy to comment on this post.
    scrap recycling industries in delhi



CH4 Methane
Carbon Dioxide
Government of India
INR Indian Rupee
JnNURM Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
LFG Landfill Gas
Mechanical Biological Treatment
MSW Municipal Solid Waste
NEERI National Environmental Engineering Research Institute
Refuse Derived Fuel
SLF Sanitary Landfill
SWM Solid Waste Management
USD United States Dollar
WPs Waste Pickers
WTE Waste-to-Energy
WTERT Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council