Because poor, low-caste women comprise 85 percent of the waste picker population, Stree Mukti Sanghatana (SMS), a non-governmental organization, started the Parisar Vikas (PV) program to train informal recyclers as “parisar bhaginis,” or “neighborhood sisters.” The bhaginis are taught the principles of zero waste, how to sort and handle waste from multi-family dwellings, composting and biogas plant management, gardening, and how to organize as worker cooperatives and negotiate contracts.
Through SMS programs, a total of 600 women work in almost 150 locations in Mumbai, ranging from institutional campuses to housing apartments. They bundle the dry, recyclable waste for sale to industry recyclers. Residuals and organics are either picked up by the city for disposal at dumpsites, or by SMS to be processed in composting and biogas facilities that produce manure and biogas for industry and domestic end uses.
Bhaginis earn income from the sale of recyclables and sometimes also receive a service fee for collecting, sorting, or managing composting pits/biogas plants. Most earn US $2 - $3 per day from collection fees and sale of recyclables, though this can vary considerably. Some apartments pay the waste pickers directly; others pay the co-op.