Big bucks out of animal discards | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 27, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:42 AM, August 27, 2018

Big bucks out of animal discards

Forty-year-old Abu Kalam dug into the towering garbage pile in search of bones at the landfill in the capital's Matuail. He seemed unperturbed by the foul smell which had perhaps taken a backseat to the money he could earn by selling discarded animal parts.

Although the setting for his industry is not the most glamorous, Kalam is part of a million-dollar industry.

Data from the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) of Bangladesh shows that export of gut, bladder and stomach of slaughtered animals brought in $13 million in the fiscal 2017-18, while the bones and horns added another $486,000.

But experts believe there is potential for much more.

If given a formal shape, the sector can employ more people and generate higher income. 

“We should all encourage maximum utilisation of the waste materials,” said Bijoy Bhattacharjee, vice-chairman of the EPB.  

If the waste is processed and turned into exportable products, for example buttons from bones, more value will be added to it, he told The Daily Star.

This waste exemplifies the idea that one man's trash is another man's treasure because the animal discards command good prices as all of it can be recycled, sold to local manufacturers of products like soap, shampoo, medicines or exported to countries like China, Korea, Japan and India. 

The business always picks up steam after Eid-ul-Azha during which around five lakh cattle and other animals are sacrificed in the city alone.

The profitability of the sector has resulted in 300-400 small shops sprouting close to the Matuail landfill, where scavengers like Kalam sell recyclable waste materials.

However, everything from collection, sorting out items, cleaning, processing and selling is done in an informal fashion with utter disregard for hygiene and environmental pollution. 

Nearly 34,000 tonnes of waste was generated from the sacrificial animals in two days this time, according to sources at the South and North city corporations. 

The huge amount of waste generated in just two days was not managed properly, Maqsood Sinha, co-founder and executive director of Waste Concern, a social business enterprise for waste recycling, said to this correspondent. 

Resources like horns and skin are handled professionally but fat and bones are recycled in an unorganised manner causing environment pollution, he said, adding that the management process can be more efficient if there were designated places for slaughter. 

FOR MONEY AND MUCH MORE

“I do this as I have wife, children, relatives to look after,” Kalam said, as he went about his business, perhaps oblivious to his crucial role in reducing the environmental impact of accumulating, rotting waste. 

The stench of the decomposed waste became heavier near the shops collecting bones and other organs and drying them under the scorching sun.

There are some 1,500 more shops in the Matuail area involved in the trade, according to non-government organisation Grambangla Unnayan Committee, which works for the well-being of waste pickers at Matuail.

Some 300 waste-pickers collect reusable materials from the dump every day round the year, but around Eid-ul-Azha their number doubles, said Rina, who has been working at the site for nearly 20 years.

Nearly 34,000 tonnes of waste was generated from the sacrificial animals in two days this time, according to sources at the South and North city corporations. 

The new arrivals want a share of the income generated from bones, fat and other waste materials that come from sacrificial animals.

“One can earn Tk 1,000- Tk 1,200 a day just by selling bones and fat,” said the 35-year-old Rina.

“I have earned around Tk 6,000 in three days after Eid,” she said.

In the hub of the shops, workers were busy separating horns, bones, hooves, fat and penis since every item has different rates and different buyers.

Processed and crushed bones sell for as much as Tk 26 per kg and penis for Tk 400 a kg, said Mostafiz, the manager at Meherab Bone Mill.

Pointing to a line of thin cuts of flesh dangling from a rope outside the shop, he said those had a good demand in China. “They eat them [sex organs] in soup,” he said.

Near the shop's entrance, Renu was cleaning and separating organs, attracting a number of flies at the same time.

Lazily shooing the flies away, Renu said she had been working at the shop for seven years.

She earns Tk 6,000 a month, working six days a week from 8:00am to 5:00pm.The money helps her to run her family of five.

Shops like Meherab Bone Mill are now employing a higher number of people to collect and process waste.

Mohammad Hakim, from Comilla, who has been in this trade for 15 years, said he employed one additional man at his shop for this season. “The business gets a boost this time around [for 10-15 days]. So, there is a lot to manage.”

The number of animals sacrificed during Eid almost equals the number of animals sacrificed the whole year, said Kazi Wasi Uddin, additional secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.   

Until any measure is taken by the authority, people like Abu Kalam will continue to help reduce the environmental impact of waste, working amid thick layers of foul smell, putting their health at risk.

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