Since the last few years every time I visited my parents on vacation, in Trivandrum, my mother would tell me that Abubacker was asking about me. He has been a regular visitor to their home since many years, and collects what we call ‘waste’ or what is called ‘discards’ in zero-waste lingo. Abubacker began enquiring about me since the vacation I cleaned up my parents’ old bookshelves clearing out magazines, school books and a large number of other sundry books which we inherited at different points. It resulted in a huge package for him and since then he came to the conclusion that it is my arrival that would result in discard bounty from our home!
During this vacation, Abubacker happened to come when I was at my parents place, and I finally met the distinguished looking man with his wide smile and engaging conversation style. He smiled espying the pile of old books and magazines I had waiting for him and we got talking. I began quizzing him on what he does, how he disposes the discards and what kinds of discards he deals with.
He told me that he collects almost everything except the thin plastic bags from households -clearly it is well past time we stopped using them- and in turn he sells these to a wholesaler in Trivandrum. He also helps his son, a scrap dealer who collects scrap and sells it to a wholesaler in Tamil Nadu. He said that he pays the households for collecting old newspapers but the rest he picks up but doesn’t pay (as it is not remunerative enough).