In India, there is a thriving market for trash. People make lives for themselves collecting it, sorting it, buying it, selling it: making it useful once again.
While the community of trash workers occasionally gets attention from the American media, the focus often revolves around the initial realization that people can earn a living from garbage piles, and what this says about poverty levels.
Katherine Boo’s recent book related to the subject, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, went deeper, exploring the mechanisms of entrepreneurship and exploitation in India. However, there is also a more positive side to this story that often goes uncommented on. An efficient recycling system has a long-term positive effect on society as a whole, and is also something that North America and Europe generally lack. That is a significant part of what the trash economy in India is- an informal recycling system.