…is another man’s treasure.


This piece is a continuation of the previous blog piece and will explore in further the role of waste scavengers.

The invisibility of scavengers, which was discussed in the last post, has a wider, detrimental effect. The informal nature of scavenging means that the workers are not part of a union or cooperative, and so face pressures from the local authority which they cannot resist against collectively. The city has made attempts to eradicate the practice at transfer sites by reducing the size of these containers, which makes the task of scavenging substantially difficult (ibid) and poses as a deterrent from doing so; compromising the livelihoods of these workers. But the question then arises is: why would the local authorities do such? Surely they are at least aware of the contributions that these workers are having?

The answer boils down to the local politics and the huge role is has on the city’s development issues. There is virtually no incentive for politicians to care for the welfare of these workers, given they do not have a voice or vote. Their refugee statuses, rural origins or minority identities leaves them outside the political sphere and their crucial work in maintaining Lahore’s healthy metabolism is hardly recognised, let alone appreciated.

A closer look at the role of Lahore’s scavengers using UPE is a really insightful approach to understanding waste in Lahore. On one hand, it is impressive to see how an informal network of workers has emerged to take on the task that the municipality has neglected, yet on the other hand, their hard work is not recognised and they remain in the margins. Undeniably, their contributions have widespread impacts on the conservation of limited resources, local employment and minimising the scale of the waste disposal problems (Batool et al., 2008). If Lahore was to recognise this industry and collaborate with the sector, then the efficiency, effectiveness and endurance of waste management would surely improve.


Asim, M., Batool, S.A. and Chaudhry, M.N., 2012. Scavengers and their role in the recycling of waste in Southwestern Lahore. Resources, Conservation and Recycling58, pp.152-162.

Batool, S.A., Chaudhry, N. and Majeed, K., 2008. Economic potential of recycling business in Lahore, Pakistan. Waste management28(2), pp.294-298.

Cornea, N., Véron, R. and Zimmer, A., 2017. Clean city politics: An urban political ecology of solid waste in West Bengal, India. Environment and Planning A49(4), pp.728-744.

Demaria, F. and Schindler, S., 2016. Contesting urban metabolism: Struggles over waste‐to‐energy in Delhi, India. Antipode48(2), pp.293-313.

Douglas, M., 1966. 1966: Purity and danger. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Masood, M., Barlow, C.Y. and Wilson, D.C., 2014. An assessment of the current municipal solid waste management system in Lahore, Pakistan. Waste Management & Research32(9), pp.834-847.

One thought on “…is another man’s treasure.

  1. It is compelling to see how you’ve drawn in the inequalities faced by waste workers, mainly being in the form of illegal employment and scavenging, with no political voice or rights to promote action. Have there been any demonstrations or rights protests for these waste workers?


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