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Garbage Banking

June 14, 2015

Women washing clothes in a ditch along the main road, Mumbai, India, Source Agencia Brasil, Author Hajor at en.wikipedia (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0-Brazil License)

One million people live in the Dharavi slum of Mombai memorialized in Slum Dog Millionaire [1]. As the film indicated, only one percent of the houses here have their own toilets. Whole families live in bare concrete rooms, only a few miles from the palatial homes of Bollywood stars.

Yet, there are over 20,000 micro-businesses, in this congested area. And recycling is the single biggest industry – employing 50,000 people in plastics, alone. Salaries, however, are slim; hours, long; the work, arduous and sometimes dangerous.

India is not the only third world country with a garbage problem. Garbage removal in impoverished countries is unsystematic, at best.

Garbage may be discarded alongside the nearest road, or in random lots. Some garbage may be burned by those disposing of it. More often than not, garbage accumulates wherever it is discarded and left undisturbed. The result can be both noxious and harmful to health.

Now, however, garbage is holding out new hope to some distressed communities. Non-profits like ChildFund are setting up “garbage banks”, a variation on the recycling businesses in Mombai.

Recyclables, such as newspapers and plastic bottles, are first assigned a monetary value, then collected and sorted by participants, for later reprocessing. Garbage sorting is done in a clean, airy setting. The value of the items collected is deposited into bank accounts assigned to individual participants.

Their efforts produce communal and personal benefits, improving the quality of life for all.

“ ‘…[I]t is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’ ” (Matt. 19: 24).

Lord Jesus, we take for granted our country’s abundance. We are awash in riches. What we discard without thought is enough to sustain entire families elsewhere.

Move us to gratitude. Move us to generosity. Help us to see what we have been given is not for our use alone.

We ask this in Your Holy Name.


[1] Daily, “Slumdog Millionaire district where doctors and lawyers live side-by-side with the poor: Squalid area of Mumbai no one wants to leave… because of the community spirit” by Rob Cooper, 1/11/14,


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