Towards an Integrated Recycling System: Analyzing Two Scenarios of Informal Recycling Sector Performance in Mumbai, India
Waste management in the Global South is often performed informally, causing differences in service provision. Many cities are addressing these dynamics by developing formal processing centers known as Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs). In Mumbai, India, the municipal government has proposed introducing MRFs in each ward of the city, and hopes to integrate informal recyclers into the system. I study the effect of these MRFs on kabadiwalas, small-scale informal-sector aggregators. Using economic and geospatial data for three wards, I compare the proposed MRF system with the current hierarchical system to understand the economic benefits of each to the kabadiwala. I find ward-wise variations in collectors’ travel times, distances covered, and weekly economic profits, underlining the role of an MRF’s geographic placement on its potential to compete with current systems and improve kabadiwala livelihoods. This comparison highlights an essential but poorly understood sector of urban infrastructure, and reveals neighborhood-level policy implementation differences.