June 6, 2018
COIMBATORE: Scrap material is a big business today and has become an integral part of the city. Coimbatore deals with over 20 tonnes of waste which gets sorted and recycled daily. There are about 2,000 shops dealing with scrap materials comprising metals like iron, bronze, aluminum and copper, discarded paper materials, plastic items, home appliances and electronic items.
The scrap buyers estimate that this business involves 30,000 people directly and indirectly. Over 20 to 30 wholesale merchants do business that run into crores of rupees. The business started around 1980s with people visiting villages to collect scrap materials and giving eatables in return. It was a commodity-to-commodity business then which now is a money spinner.
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K Thanga Velu, a wholesale dealer who started his career in 1990s, recalls that they used to offer eatables, vegetables and jaggery for scrap. This practice was prevalent till 1995 and was replaced with rice. “Now, vendors are into the exchange of new material for old material,” he says.
Scrap materials collected are refined and sent to various places such as Sathyamangalam, Trichy and Karaikal based on their demand. Copper is the most expensive metal fetching Rs 460 a kg.
Discarded plastic materials are sorted and sent to recycling shops and are sold for Rs 4 per kg. Discarded electronic items are a challenge for the dealers. “We have to break them into pieces, and at times they have no resale value,” say dealers.
“At first this business was done by only a few people successfully. But as more people entered into this business, competition became intense,” says another dealer V Paul Raj. Small vendors are facing the heat as wholesale merchants take the scrap materials at low prices. “We calculate the transport and loading charges. But wholesalers take it at bottom prices, and we only get about Rs 6,000 per month,”, says small-time dealer T Perumal.
Another challenge for them is ensure that they do not buy stolen material, dragging them to police cases.
“I have experienced this type of issues; some people come with stolen materials like home appliances and electronic items. To avoid these issues we don’t take scraps that are in working condition,” he adds.