The Alang port in Gujarat is the largest ship-breaking yard in the world. It recycles approximately half of all ships which can no longer be used. Each part of a junk ship can be dismantled and recycled, which is what takes place at Alang.
With respect to junk management of these large shops, we found Alang to be a perfect example of a zero waste model, wherein everything including furniture, machineries, metal etc. is sold as is (reused) or sold after repairing or modifications (recycle-reuse).
The junk management was found to be so efficient that not even a screw is left as waste. The whole process has a protocol and is very systematic in nature. We would like to mention here that previous reports exist which have highlighted the dismal plight of workers involved in ship-breaking. However, the present case study was limited only to the junk market in the immediate vicinity of the Alang port.
All the people living in and around Alang, the land-owners, the labourers, individual dealers, understand and appreciate the value of junk. The junk market at Alang is the direct source of livelihood for more than 1,00,000. At the same time, shipping agents, buyers, ship brokers, marine traders, transporters, gas plants, are some livelihood options indirectly benefiting from this junk market.
According to local dealers, junk from Alang also provides useful steel to India. In fact it is the only source of steel generation for Western India. Thus the steel sector saves a lot of transportation cost for obtaining steel in Western India. Alang is a good learning lesson for anyone working in the junk sector.
The highly efficient Alang model, where each and every iota of the ship is either reused or recycled and is adequately segregated and sold, can be customized and adopted for managing urban junk as well.
Note: This field trip was part of the DU Innovations Project Scheme for the project on Improving the Current System of Junk Management and Recycling and was financially supported by the aforementioned.