BBC Media Action’s social experiment is a reflection of how Bengaluru treats their #Invaluables

BBC Media Action

Bengaluru, May 27, 2021: BBC Media Action has launched ‘Invaluables’ – a communication initiative designed to shift perceptions about waste picking and informal waste pickers in the city of Bengaluru. The programme aims to lift the shroud of invisibility that cloaks informal waste pickers, by making their contribution to the city of Bengaluru more visible to the general public. The programme is part of the H&M Foundation-funded Saamuhika Shakti Collective Impact initiative, intended to improve the lives of informal waste pickers in Bengaluru.

Bengaluru, the capital of southern Indian state Karnataka, is home to over 22,500 waste pickers. According to Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, Bengaluru generates nearly 5,757 metric tonnes of solid waste per day. Waste pickers in Bengaluru save municipal authorities up to Rs 840 million by collecting and transporting recyclables from waste, according to Hasiru Dala, an organisation working on waste management in the city. Despite being a critical part of the city’s solid waste management ecosystem, the waste pickers and their families suffer great hardships and challenges.

Through the ‘Invaluables’ initiative, BBC Media Action plans to help people travel a journey – from waste pickers being seen as ‘dirty’, to being recognised as doing important, skilled work that contributes to society and the environment.

Social experiment film – Invaluables

Central to this initiative is a social experiment that connects people to an ‘Invaluables’ Facebook community. Actress Radhika Narayan moderated the social experiment with a diverse set of Bengaluru residents, probing their notion of friends and the value of friendships. The experiment reveals the ‘Invaluable’ friends of the people of Bengaluru: friends who always stood by them, but that they never knew they had.

Actress Radhika Narayan moderated the social experiment with a diverse set of Bengaluru residents, probing their notion of friends and the value of friendships. The experiment reveals the ‘Invaluable’ friends of the people of Bengaluru: friends who always stood by them, but that they never knew they had. Waste pickers for a long time have remained invisible leading to silence on their contribution to our society. There are no conversations or questions on social media or offline. The social experiment tries to spark a realisation and to ignite a conversation around waste pickers – that they do what friends do for us, without us being aware at all.

The #Invaluables initiative focuses on the ‘humans behind the waste’, so far unrecognised by the people of Bengaluru, and over the course of the project, turn them into #Invaluables. The social experiment aimed to establish the interconnectedness between the general population and the waste pickers, and the value that the two sides bring for each other – as professionals, as humans and as fellow residents of the same city.

Our intense, two-month initiative is supported by eminent residents of Bengaluru: in addition to Radhika Narayan, author Anuja Chauhan, cricketer Robin Uthappa, comic and actor Shradha Jain, and actor Swetha Changappa.

Film Link:

Creative Credits

Agency: BBC Media Action India

Creative Director: Radharani Mitra, Soma Katiyar and Ranjan Nautiyal

Production House: Little Lamb Films

Director: Devanshu Singh

Join the Invaluables Facebook community:

On the development of the social experiment, Radharani Mitra, Global Creative Advisor, BBC Media Action said, “For too long, waste pickers and the role they play in our lives have been invisible. This invisibility has resulted in silence – no questions, no conversation – on social media and elsewhere. We conducted a social experiment to spark a realisation and to ignite a conversation – we wanted people to discover that waste pickers do what friends do for us, without us being aware at all! We hope this experiment and the Invaluables group will help shift how waste pickers are seen: from being invisible, to being invaluable.”

The #Invaluables is an online community where Bengaluru will come closer to the waste picker community through content that will unpack the value and interconnectedness between the two. This community will be always on with engagement and storytelling. This community will redefine the relationship with informal waste pickers, not just redefine their role – a pull, rather than push. The waste picker is on equal ground, right from the beginning of this conversation. The community will provide an opportunity to build experiences and discover connections.

The #Invaluables branding – as with the community – captures that change from invisible to invaluable, providing an identity for the relationship and its inherent value that runs like a single thread for the duration of the project, and even beyond.

This coming together is symbolised by the two arms of the two partners, linking to create a single community. In the current pandemic situation, the community will mostly live and interact online on the Facebook group, where people will join, interact, share and discover content that brings the lives, value and interconnectedness with the waste pickers alive. It creates space for real opportunities to interact.

The #Invaluables initiative is an outcome of formative research conducted by BBC Media Action among the waste pickers and general population in Bengaluru. The research showed that the people of Bengaluru do not recognise the humans behind the process of informal waste management, despite caring deeply about waste on the streets. While people are generally appreciative of formal waste collectors, Bengaluru’s pourakarmikas, the research showed a high level of stigma against informal waste pickers, who are virtually invisible to the people of Bengaluru.

Our studies showed that people had strong negative perceptions towards informal waste pickers because of their physical appearance, which limited their interaction and acceptance in the society. Nearly 55% of respondents said that informal waste pickers are dirty in appearance while 56% believed that they shouldn’t be allowed in building complexes and societies. The study found that women waste pickers were particularly vulnerable, facing abuse by men in the neighbourhoods and violence at home.

About BBC Media Action

Media Action is the BBC’s international development organisation. We believe in the power of media and communication for good. We work in more than 20 countries around the world, supporting the independent media essential to democracy and development. Each year, our projects and programmes reach 100 million people facing poverty, inequality and insecurity with information they can trust, helping to improve health, bridge divides, challenge prejudice, and save and change lives. In India, over the past two decades, we have delivered impact in health (HIV prevention, tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment, reproductive, maternal, neonatal, and child health), sanitation, gender equity, climate change and the prevention of bonded labour. We follow the editorial standards and values of the BBC, and we rely on funding from donors and partners to carry out our work. To find out more, please see

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