The Ragpickers of Kathmandu

Forays by rickshaw into the streets of Kathmandu for an American family that has lived in Nepal over the years has brought daily lessons on the gut-wrenching lifestyle of a low-caste people who play one of the most vital roles in reducing pollution in the Kathmandu Valley. They’re called “rag pickers” and the rags they pick from the sludge of human waste, including sewage, are indeed resources plucked from the mire of human consumption. These so-called “rags” are plastics: ramen noodle packets, biscuit packets, plastic shopping bags, plastic beverage bottles, and all forms of hard plastics.

There are about 300 rag pickers engaged in waste recovery in the various urban centers of Kathmandu. Most are villagers displaced by the Maoist regime, having moved from the rural mountainous districts to Kathmandu. Yet, rag picking is a safety-net for anyone who finds themselves amongst the poorest of the poor, guaranteed employment for the self-starter willing to pick through the rank and toxic garbage of Kathmandu’s residents. Touching other people’s dirty trash is close to taboo in Nepal, hence rag pickers are scorned and mistreated. They suffer high risk of health complications and nearly half are women and children. The majority are illiterate.

This film short is a story for both kids and adults, told from the point of view of 2 children on a journey, seeking solutions to the chaos of waste management across our planet.


Categories: Reduce Your Use, Think About It, Trash Pile - All Our Stuff


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  1. Garden Glove Love | Trash Backwards - April 6, 2013

    […] plastic or PET plastic bottles to send to India for recycling. It’s a decent living, but the conditions are among the worst on the planet.  We want to help by giving them the garden gloves we’ve found on our streets and in your […]

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