Rag-Pickers: The Bottom Rung in the Waste Trade Ladder: Reading IELTS Answers and Questions

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IELTS Reading Matching Information
IELTS Reading Summary Completion

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Recycling has existed in one form or another for many years in India and is complicated. Long before the term itself seeped into everyday vocabulary, women separated newspapers and sold them to weekend buyers, who cycled by with a weighing scale and loose change to pay with. Bottles were reused until they broke, and tins were simply never thrown away. As a 13-year-old, I was surrounded by baby food tins from my infancy, storing rice, dais, and chutneys. These habits are sadly dying out, superseded by the advent of the non-recyclable, non-reusable sachet and plastic packaging. Now, instead of being stored away for a rainy day, unwanted products are tossed carelessly into the dustbin. And this is where modern-day recycling begins. In Delhi, for every hundred residents, one person is engaged in recycling.

All recycling in India is undertaken by and via the informal sector. This sector includes ragpickers, middlemen, transporters, and finally, reprocessors. In terms of human resources, this sector is arranged in a table-top pyramid with rag pickers at the base, forming the backbone of waste collection. At the thinner end of the wedge are the small middlemen, who buy the waste and sell it to larger middlemen, who usually specialize in particular items and materials. Above them are factory owners, who procure supplies from those beneath through a ubiquitous network of agents. Delhi is particularly interesting because it has one of the largest and most vibrant recycling bases in the country. The 100,000 waste-pickers are the base of a huge recycling pyramid, handling something like 15% of the solid waste generated in the city. Since over 7,000 metric tonnes of waste is generated daily, this is a substantial business. A range of materials is processed within the sector, including plastics, metals, paper, and glass. Studies estimate that this informal labor force saves the three Delhi Municipalities a minimum of Rs. 6 lakhs (approx. 12,000 USD) every day. It has been calculated that a single scrap of material can increase 700% in value before it is even reprocessed, as it moves along the recycling chain.

So, recycling in Delhi is big business but is it a green business, and who does it benefit? Consider, first, the rag-picker, usually a young person, though not a child, with a large woven sack hanging from his or her shoulder. He or she will begin work as early as 4 am, or miss the most profitable finds. As locations and routes are territorial, residents may begin to recognize their own rag- picker. By late afternoon, or when the bag is full, the rag-picker hunts down a middleman to sell to. The waste should be separated according to almost 30 different categories, and it must be clean and dry. In secret segregation patches around the city; thousands of the poorest inhabitants sort through waste and wash it from makeshift water sources. Hunched over for hours, the poor undertake what the privileged preach: segregation of waste. If the privileged had done this themselves, the poor would suffer less from backache, allergies, and respiratory disorders, and have fewer cuts, burns, and dog bites. The transaction at the selling point is complex and frequently unjust. A rag-picker may be paid less if waste is substandard or wet, or if the buyer is temporarily cash strapped. Rag-pickers often take loans from buyers, and soon find themselves working simply to pay back debt.

Rag-pickers generally live either in slums, often the shop or warehouse of a middleman, or outside in alleyways and on footpaths. Some sleep in dustbins. Their access to basic amenities and essential services is virtually non-existent. The police regularly beat them or burn their bags of
waste, leaving them with nothing to show for a day’s work. Municipal workers charge rag-pickers to be allowed to forage in a bin, and if it is a lucrative bin, the rates gradually increase. Once ensconced, the municipal worker makes them do additional work, sweeping or loading trucks. It is not unknown for the police to pick up rag-pickers and force them to clean the police station. Sadly and shockingly, this whole process subsidizes the consumption of various materials by the city’s wealthier citizens. The example of plastics is a good example. According to a report by the Ministry of Environment, the plastics industry is growing at 10% per annum, and almost 52% of this is expected to be used in the packaging sector. Packaging is a short life use and it will be collected and processed as waste by the informal sector. It will be undertaken in a manner that ensures that ecologically, economically, and socially, the costs will be internalized by this recycling chain.

In India, the informal sector has an essential role because it is able to undertake to recycle, which the municipality cannot. However, although it is critical, especially for the handling of solid waste, the sector is unable to optimize its work. There is a stark lack of awareness and specific skills, as well as very poor working conditions. The services provided by this sector are poorly understood and ultimately free to consumers, so are currently unappealing to the private sector. Recycling, at least for now, must be seen as the flip side of urban middle-class consumption.

The state’s attitude towards informal recycling is schizophrenic. On the one hand, in conferences and seminars, the sector is praised and rag-pickers complimented for their contribution. On the other hand, the sector is ignored by planners and policymakers, who look to reform municipal systems. The current Third Master Plan for Delhi, though still being drafted in secrecy, has been largely criticized. for having ‘left out the informal sectors’. This lack of planning perpetuates the image of the sector as an illegal and illegitimate one, which is projected as encroaching upon the city, rather than serving it.

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Question 14 – 21 

Reading passage 2 had seven sections, A-G. Which section contains the following information? Write the correct letter A-G in boxes I4—2 I on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once

14. An account of a typical day’s labor
15. Examples of cruelty and specific exploitation
16. An accusation that double standards are operating
17. A description of a hierarchical system
18. An allegation that wealthier people are not doing what they could
19. An assertion that the rich benefit from the hard work of the poor
20. A summary of how a business has changed over time
21. A claim that recycling is economically beneficial to the authorities.

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Questions 22-26

Complete the Summary below.

Write NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS com the passage {or each answer. Write yow answers in boxes 22—26 on your answer sheet.

The notion of recycling in India has changed hugely. At one time, people 22_____________ everything from newspapers to household containers. Now, with the 23 __________________ disposable products and plastic packaging, people simply throw things away instead of putting them aside for 24____________. The 25____________ takes care of the whole recycling process nowadays. Rag-pickers are at the bottom of a 26 _______________________ with everyone from the various middlemen to the factory owners and their agents looking down.

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Answers for Rag-Pickers: The Bottom Rung in the Waste Trade Ladder

14. Answer: D
15. Answer: E
16. Answer: G
17. Answer: B
18. Answer: D
19. Answer: F
20. Answer: A
21. Answer: C
22. Answer: reused
23. Answer: the advent of
24. Answer: a rainy day
25. Answer: informal sector
26. Question type: Summary Completion


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