A virtuous circle: Integrating waste pickers into solid waste management

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Waste – its generation, collection, and disposal – is a major global challenge of the 21st century. Recycling waste drives environmental sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulates the economy by supplying raw materials and packaging materials.
 
Waste pickers are the principal actors in reclaiming waste for the recycling industry. Across the world, large numbers of people from low-income and disadvantaged communities make a living collecting and sorting waste, and then selling reclaimed waste through intermediaries to the recycling industry. Where others see trash or garbage, the waste pickers see paper, cardboard, glass, and metal. They are skilled at sorting and bundling different types of waste by color, weight, and end use to sell to the recycling industry. Yet waste pickers are rarely recognized for the important role they play in creating value from the waste generated by others and in contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions.
 
Fortunately, around the world, waste pickers have been organizing and cities have begun to promote the virtuous circle that comes with integrating waste pickers, the world’s recyclers, into solid waste management.
 
Brazil was the first country to integrate waste pickers, through their cooperatives, into municipal solid waste management systems and the first to adopt a National Waste Policy, recognizing the contributions of waste pickers and providing a legal framework to enable cooperatives of waste pickers to contract as service providers. The national movement of waste pickers in Brazil was awarded a contract to clean the stadiums during the World Cup.
 
A recent national decree in Colombia mandated that cities across the country should develop solid waste management schemes that contract organizations of waste pickers to collect, transport, and sort recyclable waste.
 
In Pune, India, a waste picker cooperative SWaCH, supported by its parent union, Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP), received a contract from the city for waste collection from households. In Johannesburg, South Africa, a waste pickers’ cooperative has leveraged public and private partnerships to create a community recycling program. Opened in 2014 to serve 3,000 homes, the Vaal Park Recycling Centre is gradually expanding its reach.
 
The future for millions of waste pickers around the world hangs in the balance, depending largely on the policies and practices of municipal governments. Both the WIEGO network and the World Bank are developing programs and promoting policies that recognize and support waste pickers as an integral part of the solid waste sector, who make valuable contributions to cities, the environment, and their communities by reclaiming recyclables, and providing them with space and equipment to facilitate their important work.
 
What the waste pickers have to offer is quite clear: waste collection, sorting, reclaiming, and recycling services at a reasonable cost. What they want is also quite clear: recognition for the services they provide; access to waste; the right to bid for solid waste management contracts; trucks for hauling waste; a safe space and equipment for storing, compacting, bundling, and processing waste; and fair prices for the waste they collect and the recycled materials that they reclaim, process, and sell. Integrating waste pickers into solid waste management is the win-win option.

Join the Conversation

Vishal Sharma
March 02, 2016

Actually you are absolutely right we have to look into this matter very seriously if we want to save and clean our planet. We also need more waste recycle machine to make things more effective in a smarter way.

Andrew Almack
March 07, 2016

Love this post. It is easy to forget the millions of people who serve as the invisible force cleaning up our cities. Here is a potential solution that is being implemented in India. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2g9EHbJvz0

Joy
April 01, 2016

Really you are right waste material a very serious matter. Waste Management

Charle Hook
May 18, 2016

Very good post! Waste pickers are the perfect options for waste collection, sorting, reclaiming, and recycling services at reasonable costs, so this post is very helpful for various services. I got so many important tips from this blog, so I am very happy to read this post. Thanks for sharing this great post.

Easiporta
May 24, 2016

Thanks and keep sharing. Waste Management Company

Kwasi J Boateng
November 16, 2017

Wow. Wonderful post.

Vishal Sharma
March 02, 2016

Actually you are absolutely right we have to look into this matter very seriously if we want to save and clean our planet. We also need more waste recycle machine to make things more effective in a smarter way.

Julio Arbaiza Alamora
March 03, 2016

La decisión de integrar a los recicladores en la gestión de residuos sólidos es un tema demasiado interesante que todavía muchos decisores políticos no lo han visualizando.
Desearía obtener mayor información al respecto por favor, para implementar en mi región un proyecto de ea naturaleza.

Rodolfo Tovar Lugo
March 03, 2016

Es mayúscula la importancia de la actividad de los llamados Recicladores, justo es difundir este concepto para cambiar el actual de "pepenadores", que se les aplica de manera despectiva y no les reconoce su labor en la cadena de esfuerzos para la sostenibilidad del medio ambiente.

Sergio Alarcón Poblete
March 07, 2016

Me sumo a los comentarios anteriores por la transcendencia de ayudar en la gestión de los recicladores de desperdicios y al interés del Banco por difundir este tema
Sugiero incluir los desperdicios domésticos de alimentos de los hogares para lo que sólo se necesitaría disponer de un equipo triturador (tipo molino manual o eléctrico) y separar lo orgánico y usarlo como abono de plantas
Gracias por su atención

Sergio Alarcón Poblete
March 07, 2016

Propuse antes ayudar con ideas a procesar en molinos los residuos domésticos de alimentos y separar las materias orgánicas para usarlas como abonos caseros en jardines y plantas, con esto se contribuye también al cuidado del medio ambiente

Andrew Almack
March 07, 2016

Love this post. It is easy to forget the millions of people who serve as the invisible force cleaning up our cities. Here is a potential solution that is being implemented in India. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2g9EHbJvz0

Pablo Parraga colmenares
March 08, 2016

En un mundo donde lo unico que interesa es destruir el planeta hay un grupo minoritario llamados recuperadores donde los miramos con indiferencia y son la gran solución son ellos la diferencia para salvar el planeta.

Carlos suazo neyra
March 09, 2016

Yo trabajo en honduras montando una red de recicladores he tratado de llegar al BM y ver como lograr un apoyo real pero se me ha sido imposible espero que no solo sea demagogia.
[email protected]

Felipe
March 09, 2016

Iniciamos con un programa para quitar los residuos sólidos (Plásticos en México) en el área rural, aun que aun nos falta infraestructura y conocimiento.
saludos

Marta
March 12, 2016

En mi ciudad hay mucho para hacer. Quisiera mas informacion

Reynaldo
March 12, 2016

Muy buena iniciativa. Me gustaria participar o iniciar un proyecto de Recoleccion de Residuos Tecnologicos en la Republica Dominicana. Nos falta orientacion y saber por donde empezar.
Agradeceriamos mas informacion y apoyo en el siguiente correo electronico:
[email protected]

Joy
April 01, 2016

Really you are right waste material a very serious matter. Waste Management

Charle Hook
May 18, 2016

Very good post! Waste pickers are the perfect options for waste collection, sorting, reclaiming, and recycling services at reasonable costs, so this post is very helpful for various services. I got so many important tips from this blog, so I am very happy to read this post. Thanks for sharing this great post.

Easiporta
May 24, 2016

Thanks and keep sharing. Waste Management Company

Pablo parraga colmenares
November 14, 2016

No nos hemos consientizado realmente del problema frente al calentamiento global hay que seguir sumando esfuerzos. Gracias a todos

Kwasi J Boateng
November 16, 2017

Wow. Wonderful post.

juan ant. japa t.
October 20, 2018

Interesante el articulo. Hay que estar claro que la cogestion comunitaria aporta en los sistemas cada vez mas complejo de gestionar los servicios publicos y mas si se administran mediante modelos que ayudan a la transparencia si son bien manejados como la cooperativa. Como se ha expresado todavia falta mucho para la visibilidad de los funcionarios publicos para adoptarlo como modelo, por los diferentes intereses que se manejan en nuestros paises.