Since the 1950s, more than 9 billion tons of plastic has been produced worldwide. Many plastic items are used once and thrown away. As most plastics do not naturally degrade, they remain with us, usually buried in landfill or in the ocean. India generates around 3.4 million tons of plastic per year, of which 60 - 80% is recycled.
India therefore boasts one of the highest rates of plastic recycling in the world, but in the absence of a comprehensive municipal waste management policy or state-supported recycling, the circular economy in cities like Mumbai largely relies on the informal self-organisation of the poor, living and working in precarious and risky conditions.
This short documentary has been produced collaboratively between a team of UK-based researchers and members of ACORN India, using participatory methods. It tells the story of the journeys that waste materials make through the informal recycling industry in Dharavi, Mumbai. It was produced as part of a follow-on project for impact and engagement, Resources of Hope, funded by AHRC through the Global Challenges Research Fund.
Compound 13 Lab, developed as an unplanned, incidental legacy of the Resources of Hope project, is an experimental design 'anti-lab', located in Dharavi. It explores the problems of waste, work and survival in the 21st Century.
Inspired by the ‘maker space’ movement, the lab is intended to put state-of-the-art technology for design, manufacturing, music and digital media into the hands of Dharavi's young people. The film’s soundtrack has been collaboratively composed with members of ACORN, using audio recycled and reclaimed from the urban soundscape of the 13th Compound (translation of the lyrics to the songs is available on request). The film is intended to provoke debate about the 'story of waste', challenging received notions of disposable products, materials and people, reflecting on labour, urban inequalities and the 'biopolitics of disposability'.