It is quarter to 1 pm in January, the winter sun is shining bright, providing respite from Delhi’s chilly temperatures. Amaruddin is disappointed. Attired in ragged trousers and an old, half-sleeve pink T-shirt that may have seen better days, Amaruddin is walking empty-handed towards his home in the narrow by-lanes of Ghazipur.

“I went to the dumpsite but didn’t get any valuable waste to bring home,” he says, justifying his early return.

Amaruddin, who hails from West Bengal, came to Ghazipur, an area near the Delhi-Ghaziabad border, with his father in search of a better life. Amaruddin’s father used to collect and sort waste at the Ghazipur dumpsite – the oldest site in Delhi commissioned in 1984 – for a living. Carrying forward his legacy are Amaruddin and his brother Allahuddin.

“Waste picking job is demanding. You have to climb the mountain every day and look through the waste. It takes 25 minutes to reach the top,” says Amaruddin.