Bonjour! Is probably something you’d hear Mansoor, our friendly and free spirited dry waste collection entrepreneur, say the next time you meet him!
Mansoor, who heads one of the dry waste collection centres of Hasiru Dala, recently attended the UNFCCC climate change talks in Paris. Waste pickers from across the globe were invited and were encouraged to exchange information, views and perceptions of how waste is being dealt with in their countries and also methods by which this could improve.
The annual Conference of Parties (COP) are annual conferences held to discuss and review the aims and objectives concluded upon at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The Earth Summit chalked out a framework – named the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which encompassed 195 parties/ countries. This framework set the objective of reducing and stabilizing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the main contributor to global warming – which through scientific evidence has proven to be detrimental to the environment, by causing irreversible damages to the climate, Earth and ecology.
So how does a waste picker help in mitigate climate change you ask? The answer is really quite simple, says Mansoor. We all know the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle. Have we really paid attention to the order in which they have been presented to us? Reduction of any waste has to happen in the first place, if can’t be avoided, next the consumer should make an effort to reuse. Only as a last resort, if the item cannot be reused, should it be given away for recycling – as segregation and recycling takes effort and energy. Mansoor explains using daily gadget we all use – mobile phones. A rhetorical question he asks us all – how many mobile phones does an individual have? Apart from the two working phones that you may have on you, we all have those extra phones – that have some small damages, just tucked away in a corner. With technology changes so often, people are increasingly tempted to change phones more frequently. Newer phones mean further extraction of the Earth’s resources to produce the devices in order to meet the growing demand. A few months down the line, a small damage to the phone and most of would like to just dispose off the phone rather than getting it fixed; thus leading to copious amounts of waste. Wouldn’t it just be simpler if we thought twice before buying a phone, and if and when it gets damaged, to just get it repaired rather than picking up a new handset?
Thus, our last resort should be to recycle – ONLY if reducing and reusing is not a possibility. Another example that Mansoor narrates is of plastic. While we all know the importance of reducing and reusing the plastic bags we get, practically anything we buy these days comes in plastic packaging, hence the dire need to recycle plastic. Recycling of plastic is done in such sophisticated methods these days that the final product is as good as virgin plastic – Mansoor tells us. Therefore, wouldn’t it be much better if we recycle the plastic, rather than making virgin plastic that requires fresh input of petroleum, and whose production process would further lead to all sorts of pollution? Mansoor feels it is important to have ‘recycled’ printed on products that are recycled, so that this creates awareness among people and encourages them to buy recycled products.
Accompanied by Kabir Arora of Hasiru Dala, who was also his translator, Mansoor left for France on the 29th of November and returned on the 7th of December. Like Mansoor, there were waste pickers from different parts of the globe – including South America, America, China, Africa, Bangladesh and different parts of Europe. He recalls some of the experiences while interacting with his peers. What fascinated Mansoor immensely was the way other languages were spoken. He thought some of them broke out into song and dance every time they spoke! Apart from this, he was amazed to see some of the incredibly large and intricate tattoos people had on!
Mansoor was invited to share his views in seven different events that were held across the 9 days he was there. He shared with us how the waste pickers, their translators and some of the organizers of the event would sit during the morning time and rehearse the talk they would make in the latter part of the day. As there were 50,000 people attending the summit, for obvious reasons the strict time limits while making speeches had to be adhered to. Hence, the elaborate preparations prior to the events. Apart from the conference – which was the main purpose of the trip, they spent a lot of time walking around, exploring the city and observing waste management techniques throughout the city. They also visited the famous Eiffel Tower, Notre Dam and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel – which is the archway located close to the Louvre Museum.
On the whole, Mansoor was overjoyed with his experience in Paris. He feels that he has learnt plentifully from his peers there. He suggests that there should be some way where in which money should be pooled in, and waste pickers from different parts of the globe should congregate periodically and learn from each other – as he feels the experience was invaluable. He is excited about the next conference in Morocco and hopes that someone else from India is able to attend those talks and return home to share stories and information with us.
Father of three children, Mansoor is also happy to be back home. He is also extremely grateful to the people who help him out at the segregation centre, namely, Fayaz, Manja, Arunachalam, Jabeena, Sugandhi, Nazima, Mastaan, Pakash, Ambujanna, Muniratna, Muniyamma, Varalakshmi and of course Azima – his wife. He is also immensely thankful to Hasiru Dala for making the trip possible for him – there were numerous preparations that had to be done prior to his travel. And of course grateful to Kabir Arora for accompanying him on the trip, and having immeasurable patience.
While these conferences do make a difference in bringing about changes and aid mitigation of climate change, Mansoor says that the sole responsibility lies with each and every one of us. Only if we feel the pinch and feel the need to change and bring about a change, does it really work; not by discussing climate change whilst sitting in a large air conditioned room. He hopes that in the near future, people wake up and realize the enormous mess we have made and start segregating and recycling, and with this, hope that our environment survives.