Unwrap a piece of candy and toss the paper aside with no further thought of where it will wind up. The piece of paper journeys through a complex series of steps, thanks to hundreds of thousands of men, women and children spread across the city. The kabaris—the waste pickers—live, work and survive on our trash. Thanks to
them, India recycles almost 59% of its daily trash—a recycling programme that’s the envy of Western countries and is accomplished at no cost to the government. But for the kabaris, who earn about an average of Rs100 a day, it is done at great risk to their lives.
Two girls play with some granulated polystyrene that dropped accidentally--a moment of levity in an uncommon playground
With the aid of the NGO Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, Enrico Fabian, a German photographer, spent three months following the kabaris from the moment they pick up trash from New Delhi’s homes, through the mounds of trash at the Ghazipur landfill site, to the recycling plants on the outskirts of the city. Here’s a glimpse into one of the most arduous but unrewarding jobs in Delhi.
More pictures by Enrico Fabian
• Powerful machines compress most metal trash into cubes, which are then transported to a recycling plant and turned into appliances and construction beams.
• A waste pickerworking at a metal segregation complex in Seemapuri, in the city’s north-east, carries a tangle of wires on his head.
• An avalanche of wastepours from a dump truck. The waste pickers stand as close as possible to get the best of the lot first.
• A young ragpickerignores the risk of landslides as he goes about earning his daily bread on the slopes of a landfill.
Photographs by Enrico Fabian