Member Profile: KKPKP and SWaCH
Kagad, Kach, Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) was established in 1993 as the trade union of waste pickers, itinerant waste buyers, waste collectors, and other informal recyclers in the Indian city of Pune. KKPKP's self-employed worker members—who number in the thousands—recover, collect, categorize, and sell materials such as corrugated board, paper, plastics, metals, and glass for recycling.
KKPKP has been a powerful advocate for waste pickers in the informal economy, making the case for greater municipal recognition of the contributions of waste pickers in solid waste management, so that they are recognized as workers and so that their waste collection efforts are understood as legitimate work. KKPKP has helped waste pickers to get integrated into municipal waste management systems.
The highly successful "Pune model" as it is popularly known among solid waste management experts, is the brainchild of the KKPKP Union members who launched the SWaCH (Solid Waste Collection and Handling) cooperative, India's first wholly owned cooperative of self-employed waste pickers /waste collectors and other urban poor providing door-to-door collection and waste management services to the citizens of Pune.
The cooperative has 2,200 members who collect waste from over 250,000 homes in the city of Pune. Their recent MoU with the municipal corporation of sister city of Pimpri Chinchwad has doubled their coverage to almost 500,000 homes. The Pune experiment is sustainable in the true sense of the term as it addresses twin aspects of environmental and social justice. By engaging waste pickers in door-to-door collection, there is a marked increase in the source separation which is fundamental to successful solid waste management and is strictly prescribed under Indian laws. The system also facilitates optimum recovery of recyclables and increased composting of organics, drastically reducing the financial burden on the Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporations, which were otherwise spending millions on transporting waste to landfills and processing facilities.
SWaCH grew out of a pilot project implemented in 2005 in collaboration with the Department of Adult Education at Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey (SNDT) Women's University and was formalized in 2008. SWaCH has recently produced "We, SWaCH," a video about their work.