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Sudjata Imtiaz Khan (right) and her friend Surekha sorting the waste
Sudjata Imtiaz Khan (right) and her friend Surekha sorting the waste
Devi Boerema

PUNE — Every morning Rebecca Kedari pulls a cart through an upmarket neighborhood in this city of 3.3 million to collect household waste.

Ten years ago Rebecca would not even been able to enter this area of Pune, in western India. “Before I had to go outside the city to look for dry waste and bring it back. The work conditions were bad and collecting the waste took me at least 6 hours,” she says.

She now wears a local government identity card, has a health insurance plan, and is part of the KKPKP — a waste pickers' union set up in the 1990s. After 20 years of activism, Rebecca and 3,000 other women are now the official waste collectors of Pune.

The wet waste Rebecca collects goes to a sorting center. There, small pieces of plastic, cardboard and other dry materials are picked out by hand. What’s left over is put through a machine that chops it up finely to make high-quality compost.

Sudjata Imtiaz Khan works here: "I started working as a ragpicker when I was seven, to help my mother. Back then the only food we had to eat was what people would give us. Now the work has become easier because we can pick up the trash right at the door. I earn 3,000 rupees ($100) plus another 3,000 rupees per month from selling the dry waste per month.”

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Society

Return To Clay: Why An Ancient Building Material Is Back In Fashion

Concrete and glass are often thought of as the only building materials of modern architecture. But Francis Diébédo Kéré, the first African winner of a prestigious Pritzker architecture prize, works with clay, whose sustainability is not the only benefit.

Francis Diébédo Kéré extended the primary school in the village of Gando, Burkina Faso

Clara Le Fort

"Clay is fascinating. It has this unique grain and is both beautiful and soft. It soothes; it contributes to well-being..."

Francis Diébédo Kéré, the first African to be awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize last March, is paying tribute to clay. It's a material that he adores, which has too often been shunned and attributed to modest constructions and peasant houses. Diébédo Kéré has always wanted to celebrate "earthen architecture”: buildings made out of clay. It's a technique that has been used for at least 10,000 years, which draws on this telluric element, known as dried mud, beaten earth, rammed earth, cob or adobe.

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