SCRAP DEALER, Bidoun Magazine

Photography and writing for Bidoun Magazine.


Recycler for profit – Shabbir pasha

“We can recycle anything” says Shabbir Pasha and then almost like an afterthought he says “We recycled the world trade center.”

Shabbir Pasha sits at his desk in a small hut in a yard piled high with mountains of old pump sets, girders, air conditioners and wiring.

“We received almost 500 tons of square plate steel, copper and lead from the rubble of the world trade center,” says Shabbir. “It was processed in Mysore and Bangalore at many yards like this. We separated what was useful here, all by hand.”

I wonder where under those piles of scrap do some tiny pieces of the WTC lie. It waits to be picked and hammered and chipped at by a small group of men laboring under a tarpaulin, with nothing but hammers and pliers. Aramugam, one of the men who separate the metal from casings and other material gets paid about 150 rupees a day. They separate bits of metal and casing and that metal is sold to foundries, which melt it into ingots, rods and billets. Most of it is consumed by the local market.

Shabbir waves his hands around expansively when I ask where his salvaged metal ends up. “All around Bangalore. In houses, in building pillars, in cars and electrical fittings”. I asked him how he felt about having recycled some of the world trade center. Shabbir thinks for a couple of seconds and he replies that he got 20 rupees a kilo of steel for that batch, which is better than the 18 rupees which they get today, due to the recession.

No, I say, how do you feel about having processed the world trade center?

Shabbir repeats

“I felt good to get Rs. 20 a kilo for that steel, its not as good as some other times, when we got 29 rupees, like during the Beijing Olympics, but it was not bad.”

He buys most of his scrap from demolitionists, auctions and scavengers. A lot of scrap from Germany is shipped to India, he says, because they cant separate the stuff there. Too expensive for them.

We have run this business since 1970 he says. My father started it. We get scrap and my boys separate it. They’re paid about 100 rupees a day. The best time ever was the Beijing Olympics. That’s when the price of scrap was at its highest.

I ask if any of the world trade center ended up in Beijing.

“Definitely” he replies.

“Business isn’t so good, but we are okay”, he says. “The local market is still not bad for steel. About 18 rupees a kilo and for copper we get 350 rupees a kg. It’s a good business. Some of our houses and buildings come from here.”


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