Leven, Rachel's Postcard from India

Interesting people I'm meeting here at ISRI.   I feel I'm falling behind on reporting all the good reports coming out on the repair, recycling and refurbishing trade.

Rachel Leven, a Fulbright Scholar who has just returned to Duke, gave a very good presentation based on her article in Foreign Affairs magazine (a Postcard version of her letter from Delhi).  Here is a teaser.  It would be terrific if some India scholars could use the report, and others like it, to get the Indian customs agents to stop serving the behest of manufacturers and planned obsolescence.   Repair and refubishing and the "informal" sector are not perfect, but the UNEP and Basel Secretariat reports on the actual 85% reuse of imports to Ghana and Nigeria should cause India to reconsider whether the recycling trade should really be kept untouchable, or whether Singapore's ingenious harnessing of the repair and reuse resources in the 1980s and 1990s represents a better model than the prohibitions on that trade.

Letter From Delhi

The Economics of Trash

The streets of India's major cities look dirty, piles of waste rot in the corners of buildings, and plastic bottles crunch underfoot. But the grit hides an informal waste collection system so effective that, despite an increase in the sale of disposable, non-organic consumer goods in India in recent years, the trash that ends up in the hands of municipal garbage facilities is over 50 percent organic -- that is, mostly food waste. In 2009, food scraps made up only 21 percent of non-recycled waste in the United States. India's ubiquitous trash-pickers may seem to some an unfortunate byproduct of Western-style consumption, but where others see garbage many Indians see opportunity. In an informal glass market in Bangalore, I was offered three rupees for a green glass bottle. By selling three bottles, I could have earned enough for a local bus ride.

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