|In India, hundreds of thousands of people make a living by collecting, sorting, and recycling valuable plastic materials recovered from waste. The material basis for this mostly informal economy is provided by rising levels of domestic plastic waste, as well as increasing scrap imports from other countries. Large plastic scrap markets exist in India’s main cities, where all sorts of plastic resins, grades and colours are traded in staggering quantities. One of the biggest of those markets, Tikri Kalan, is located on the outskirts of Delhi.
In this study, literature and field research was conducted to characterize the organizational, material and economic functioning of Tikri Kalan. Interviews and direct observations formed the basis for quantitative analyses on the amount of people working in, quantities of plastic flowing through, and annual revenues gained from plastic scrap trading in Tikri Kalan.
Results reveal that Tikri Kalan is in fact composed of three interdependent areas; a formal trading market and two informal satellites involved in sorting and storing activities. Together, these areas occupy a surface of about 1.5 km2, employ around 10 000 people, and receive approximately 1900 tonnes of plastic scrap per day. Most of the outflow goes to recycling factories, and plastics deemed unrecyclable often end up as alternative fuel for brickmaking. Tikri Kalan’s daily revenue is estimated at 9.17 million Indian rupees (137 thousand USD).