The recycling process makes economic sense and should be encouraged on more scientific lines


Sep 06 - 12, 2004




















"Raddi-Paper-Wala" is the loud announcement you often hear during the day. He is commonly known by this name and is a familiar character roaming the streets of our towns and cities every day. He can be as young as 10 or 12 years and as old as 65 or 70 years. He is there to cheaply buy from the people old, out of order or discarded house-hold items such as newspapers, magazines, books, shoes, electrical or electronic gadgets, iron bars or pipes, furniture, plastic articles, tires, glass bottles or jars, packaging material, brass items, etc. In short, he will buy anything but very cheap. His tools of trade include a four-wheel push cart, a weighing scale with a few weights, a sack or an iron-sheet trunk and a few hundred rupees in small denomination. He earns his living by performing a useful function of collecting waste paper and old or discarded items which in due course would be recycled for producing similar or other useful new products for the consumers. We should see him as the field force for the recycling industry. The house owners can conveniently dispose of the second-hand or discarded materials and earn small amounts in the bargain. Once you deal with him you will find him to be a shrewd businessman.

He is not bound by 9 to 5 routine. His day starts around eight in the morning when he leaves his home with his push cart and usually works until afternoon. He starts walking the streets and announces his arrival by occasional shouts of Raddi-Paper-Wala. Often he walks miles and miles, sometimes passing the same streets at different hours of the day. He knows that people will sell the waste items to him when they are free from other more pressing engagements. One household may sell him old newspapers; the other may sell plastic items while the third might sell glass bottles or packaging materials. Whatever materials are purchased he stacks on the push cart. He uses the sack and the trunk to separately store metals and other 'high-value' products. More purchases increase the load on the push cart and require more effort to push it forward. Sometimes, if he is lucky his cart is fully loaded in the first few hours and he is obliged to make the trip to the Kabardia or the wholesaler in waste goods, to sell his collection. The Kabardia owns a godown with weighing scales. Raddi-Paper-Wala sells his collection of waste materials to the Kabardia and normally after a cup of tea and a cigarette would return to the streets again for some more business. However, occasionally he might call it a day if he earns handsome profit from the first trip.

Like most people, Raddi-Paper-Wala gets greedy sometimes. To earn more money, he plays tricks on the sellers of old newspapers or other old items. He might cheat in the weighing of materials or the price or both. Such cheats would readily agree to a higher rate per kilo to induce the house-owners to sell the material to him; and not to wait for the familiar person known from the transactions in the past. Newspapers are bulky items and if he cheats the house-owners by a few kilos he earns more. Such practices are not paying in the long run. After one or two bad experiences, the house-owners realize that they have been fooled and for future they would avoid dealing with that particular Raddi Paper Wala. Weighing short is a bad practice and no one should be encouraged. However, most of them are straight-forward and would not indulge in cheating for making a few extra bucks.



There are certain items which are of no more use to one particular house owner but might be of interest to other persons. Old books, furniture items, bottles of beautiful design, etc are the items that the Raddi Paper Wala buys cheap but would try to sell, if there is a ready buyer, at a reasonable price making larger profit than is possible by selling to the Kabardia. He is also aware of the second hand market for specific goods and might take these items there for disposal at a better margin. For him, there is reasonable profit potential on some of the days of the week. However, due to prevailing high unemployment in the country, competition in this professional is also severe. There are no entry barriers.

The Kabardia, who buys waste products from a large number of Raddi Paper Walas, are operating in most of the localities. He keeps on buying, sorting and piling different materials and items in the compound. When an item is about a truck load, then the Kabardia would sell it in bulk to the recycling industries. Items such as waste paper, glass, iron, plastic, etc are in big demand. The material sold by the Kabardia, though not virgin, but is dirt cheap as compared to the price demanded by the respective suppliers of virgin raw materials. The recycling process makes economic sense and should be encouraged on more scientific lines. It also provides employment to a large number of persons in every town and city.

The Kabardia in each locality controls the rates of various waste items particularly the ones in large demand. He informs the Raddi Paper Walas about the rates at which he would be making purchases. Each Raddi Paper Wala keeps handsome margin for himself while bargaining with the people selling waste items to him. He works hard and we should not grudge his making reasonable profit. If he is using a rented push-cart, he has to first earn the rent before expecting any profit coming to him. If he has his own push-cart he is lucky and can save the rent and make a bigger profit for the family.

Life is tough for the Raddi Paper Wala as walking in the streets for hours in cold winter or in hot summer takes its toll. He has to work every day to earn living for the family throughout life if he sticks to this trade. If he fails to work due to sickness it is his hard luck and tough for the family. Despite his important contribution toward economy, he or his family is not entitled to any social security benefits in case of sickness or old age or sudden death. Judging from their presence making rounds in the streets of different localities during the day, their number appears to be substantial. It would be socially desirable if Raddi Paper Walas as well as other such self-employed persons are registered by the provincial Employees Social Security Institution for medical assistance and by the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution for pension benefits. Existing rules do not allow their registration but ways and means could be found to bring such large number of poor people in the social security net. If educated properly as to the benefits of special schemes for the medical and pension, they might agree to make monthly contribution to earn entitlement for of these government schemes. In addition, they might be registered with the respective Town Councils for this particular trade in the specified localities of each town or city. This step might help introducing some discipline in the trade and to some extent also protect the households from any possible mischief or unhealthy activities by any members of this fraternity.