Category Archives: Garbage Around

Garbage Around: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Oh Nuts!

That’s right! There is no chocolate, or raisins , or anything else besides almonds. Before you declare false advertising and suggest I send Planters a note so that I can get free nuts for life, cool your jets. This is a re-used bag!  They were purchased from a corner store with the hope of actually finding real trail mix.

Once we became aware of the true contents of the bag, the store owner was kind enough to pull out cashews and other nuts packaged in the same way. He explained to us that a man, who he claims doesn’t have a number, stops by about once a week to deliver the nuts. His hesitance indicated either confusion on his part as to why we had any interest in who provides nuts or that the arrangement was part of the informal economy. I figure it was probably a little bit of both.

After some thought, here is what I think is the most likely scenario. Planters has a factory, either in the US or somewhere else in the world – could be India or could not be since Planters is not a big distributor here. At this factory there are sometimes mistakes on the assembly line. Our Trail Mix bag, which was very clean and crisp in appearance, also claimed to be “resealable,” which unfortunately  it was not. So long story short its possible that the Planters factory(s) sells its faulty packages to an outside dealer, which sells to another dealer, and so on, down the chain finally reaching the the informal nut packager in Delhi. Mind you, I have no proof to back this up and it’s only one of many possible cycles. Could be that the Planters bag was used and discarded, picked up, cleaned, and re-used.

By now you are probably thinking, “How very sanitary.” I’ve been reflecting on standards in India and the US. Personally I don’t see anything wrong with the use of defunct Planters bags for a cheaper market as long as the nuts are still clean. Well I ate them as did friends and not one of us is lying in heap on the floor of a bathroom, so far so good. But who knows that the next package will bring…

Garbage Around Delhi: Azadpur Mandi

Part of what I would like to do during my time in India is document and understand the Indian experience of waste.  Every society has unique taboos, limits, and allowances in its understanding of sanitation. Some actions are born out of necessity, others are habits linked to history and cultural logic.  In this post and more to come over the next few months, I will try to share some of my observations and questions with you.

As I navigate Indian waste systems I am also coming to understand the benefits and pitfalls of those in the U.S.  Unfortunately I cannot be in two places at once. So, if you see a picture or read something in this blog that you think has an analogous presence where you’re living (in the U.S. or elsewhere) please let me know, send me your photos and thoughts.

Waste piles in Azadpur Mandi

Fresh and Old Waste in Azadpur Vegetable Market

These photographs were taken in Azadpur Mandi, as far as I know it’s Asia’s largest fruit and vegetable market. Everyday farmers bring their goods to this market in Delhi, which are then auctioned off in bulk to brokers who then sell the goods to distributors and vendors. Most of the unwanted produce or discards, like garlic skin, stems, and husks are dumped in a few central locations. Asking around, I found out that this waste is sent to a vermicomposting unit not too far away. However it was clear from sight and smell that the back portion of the waste had been there for quite sometime. My guess is that the trucks removing the waste are only able to carry so much and that the remainder stays rotting where it sits.

Cow eats discarded veggies from the curbside

Cow Eats Discarded Veggies from the Curbside

Realizing that this was the market where all of our food comes from was a mixed experience for me and my roommates. On the one hand all of the food looks and smells wonderfully fresh, on the other hand things are sold, shucked, and shelled in view of the dumping grounds. In addition, waste is left along the sidewalk, between trucks, and just behind blankets with food for sale. It’s likely that sweepers are hired to collect garbage from the street when the market closes everyday, but in the meantime it attracts dirty cows and stray dogs.

The proximity of waste and (I forgot to mention) mud  is disconcerting for those of us who are used to fluorescent supermarket coolers and neat farmers market stalls. But in the end I had to be satisfied that, despite the look and smell of parts of the market, the good produce stays on, mostly, clean sheets. And on a positive note, a friend studying food distribution tells me that what happens before the produce gets to the market, while unseen, is much more likely to kill me anyhow.

Vegtable Sellers and the Azadpur Market

Vegetable Sellers and Processors at Azadpur Market

Vegetable Vendor in New Delhi

Vegetable Vendor in New Delhi