#NepalNow : A recycling centre that makes a difference

Posted on Jan 31, 2017

Bishnu sorts bottles Bishnu?s hands work fast. She grabs a plastic bottle from the large bag in front of her and twists off the lid, smoothly tossing it into the small bucket near her feet. Her craft knife flicks, slicing through the label, cutting out the small strip of glue that held it in place, severing the coloured collar left behind on the neck of the bottle and whipping it off. Her final movement: flicking the bottle into the one of the large open-mouthed sacks hanging around her ? one for green, one for water, one for clear soda?. It?s barely landed before she?s picked up the next one. [embedded content] Jen with Bishnu in work garb, in her red saree and a detail from the site I was sitting with Bishnu at the Himalayan Climate Initiative?s Nagar Mitre PET recycling centre in Kathmandu, Nepal. Coca-Cola had flown out of a group of bloggers to Nepal for the #NepalNow trip, to see its work with non-profits and non-governmental organisations along with its #5by20 project (more about which in a subsequent post). We were here to see how this innovative recycling public-private partnership works. Coca-Cola paid for my travel, accommodations and food.  It has all been amazing but to be honest, this stop was one I was most looking forward to on our trip. The plastic bottles in our lives Whenever I toss a plastic bottle in a recycling bin in London, I can?t help but think about its journey, where it came from and, crucially, where it goes. As we all think more about living sustainably, what we do about our plastic bottles is a big issue. Just how big? In the Kathmandu Valley alone, 17 tons of plastic PET bottles (polyethylene terephthalate ? the most common type of plastic drinks bottles) are thrown away on the street everyday, and about that much daily in the rest of Nepal. Every day. These women, the workers who supply it and this facility play a vital role in the health of the nation, where the waste management system is not up to the job. Independent waste workers gather the bottles from the street and restaurants provide used ones. The workers in this facility sort the bottles and bale them, before sending them on for recycling. HCI is doing things differently from other sorting centres. How HCI makes a difference for workers As you might imagine, this isn?t traditionally the most respected or well-paid work. Yet HCI, a youth-driven non-profit committed to social inclusion and climate resilience, is remaking and professionalising the process. To the gatherers, it pays up to 23 rupees per kilogram, much more than the 12 rupees per kilo they get from other sorting centres. More than that, it has elevated the work they do. One collector, in a video for HCI, describes being called ?khatey?: garbage. HCI provided them with official branded jackets ? uniforms ? and now they are seen as workers, not scavengers....

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