IWWG Task Group on
TG Leader: Jutta Gutberlet
Informal recycling is a widespread income generating activity practiced particularly in the global South. Here approximately 1% of the population is involved in solid waste collection, separation and recycling. Often these individuals or groups provide collection services for secondary raw materials that are usually not collected by the formal system or where the formal system has no interest or capacities to do so. A significant part of these workers are women. The activity usually happens under precarious, unsafe and exploitative conditions. The majority of informal recyclers are poor, trying to make a livelihood under great adversities. Their service to the community and the environment is not recognized or valued by most governments and society at large. They work on dumps and landfills (see Photo 1), or in the streets in Southern cities, recovering resources embedded in waste (see Photo 2). A small proportion of this sector is organized in cooperatives, associations or small-scale enterprises. Often these groups are not yet fully formalized, as the registration and legalization processes for a cooperative can be quite bureaucratic and require the payment of fees Many of the leaders in the informal recycling sector are part of social movements in their regions, countries and sometimes of the worldwide network (Global Alliance of Waste Pickers), struggling for social and economic inclusion of the waste picker population worldwide.
Aims and objectives
The overall purpose of the Task Group on Informal Recycling (TGIR) is to generate and disseminate up-to-date knowledge on the multiple facets of the work and the workers in informal recycling. The TGIR engages in generating technical, academic and non-academic resources to evidence the contributions and challenges related to this activity. Task Group members get involved in conducting research and compiling data to uncover the size, the contribution to waste management, the livelihood situations and the working conditions of informal recyclers, as well as the public policies and programs for different forms of co-production in selective waste collection and recycling. In this task academics work together with practitioners, in discussing and proposing strategies, approaches and policies to address the current disenfranchised, precarious and exploitative working conditions that prevail among informal recyclers. The outcomes of this Task Group will inform the IWWG and wider interested public, providing technical and academic evidence for debates, proposals and decision-making on key issues associated with informal sector recycling and solid waste management in the global South.
It is our main objective to generate knowledge and to create more awareness about the social, cultural, economic and environmental challenges associated with informal recycling. The members of this Task Group will further engage in:
- Research that establishes a better database on the various aspects of informal sector recycling;
- Discussions and debates on inclusive solid waste management, particularly in waste collection, separation and recycling;
- Exchange of experiences on waste management with informal recyclers from various regions and countries, highlighting local assets of the informal recyclers, public policies and specific strategies in place to improve the work and livelihoods of the informal waste sector;
- Develop better ways of knowing and assessing the attempts of integrating the informal sector in waste management co-production;
- Expand the knowledge and praxis of informal sector participation in waste management co-production.
Work in progress
The Task Group was formed in October 2015. Since then the founding members have convened several times during online meetings. Several of the members are also involved in collaborative research projects on waste governance, waste pickers and grassroots waste picker organizations. We have been able to conduct the following work, co-generating knowledge and creating more awareness about the social, economic and environmental challenges associated with informal recycling.
1. Research activities
We are working on research to establish a better database on the various aspects of informal sector recycling. We are currently working on three major research topics related to waste pickers and waste workers: (1) Waste picker organizations and networks, (2) Grassroots social innovations related to waste picker activities, (3) Inclusive waste governance.
These research activities are funded by the Swedish Research Council (SRC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Counsel of Canada (SSHRC). The projects operate in partnership under the Consortium Recycling Networks and Waste Governance, since 2017.
Some TG members have identified as a priority the development of better ways of knowing and assessing the social contributions of organized informal recycling. We are concerned about expanding the knowledge and praxis of informal sector participation in waste management co-production within our research and outreach activities.
2. Participation in discussions and debates on inclusive solid waste management
Over 2018 all team members have been active, presenting at conferences and participating in debates and workshops. Some examples are highlighted on the webpage.
We have engaged in opportunities to exchange experiences on waste management with informal recyclers from various regions and countries. These encounters have helped to highlight local assets of the informal recyclers, point towards existing or the lack of public policies for more inclusive waste management and occasionally we have been able to contribute with specific strategies in place to improve the work and livelihoods of the informal waste sector.
Develop better ways of knowing and assessing the attempts of integrating the informal sector in waste management co-production.
Expand the knowledge and praxis of informal sector participation in waste management co-production.
|Department of Geography, University of Victoria
|María José Zapata Campos
|School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg
|School of Engineering and Technology, Odinga University of Science and Technology
|Nídia Nacib Pontuschka
|Faculdade de Educação, Universidade de São Paulo
|School of Public Administration, University of Gothenburg
|Principal Specialist Solid Waste, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
|Instituto de Estudios sobre la Ciencia y la Tecnología (IESCT), Universidad Nacional de Quilmes (UNQ)
Contact and TG Leader
Dr. Jutta Gutberlet
Dept. Geography, University of Victoria
Phone: 1 250 472 4537
- Participation in the SARDINIA 2019 - 17th International Waste Management and Landfill Symposium, 30 Sept - 4 Oct 2019, Santa Margherita di Pula, Cagliari, Italy
- Organization of the International Conference: Recycling Networks & Waste Governance. Location: Kisenga Lapf International Conference Center, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 29th April - 4th May 2019. Theme: Sustainable Waste Collection and Recycling for Inclusive Cities.
The planned Recycling Networks & Waste Governance Conference in Dar es Salaam, in 2019, aims to bring together waste picker and recycling organizations, waste processors, intermediaries, local government, scholars, policymakers and development partners to exchange views, models, experience and practical lessons on sustainability of waste collection and networks for inclusive and sustainable cities. The conference is organized by Mazingira Cooperative Society in collaboration with Dar es Salaam City Council, the Centre for Policy Research and Advocacy (CPRA), University of Dar es Salaam Business School and the other Universities involved in the project.
Theme and Modality of the Conference
The main theme of the conference is Sustainable Waste Collection and Recycling for Inclusive Cities. The theme sustainable and inclusive waste collection and recycling is also inspired by the urge of most cities to transform waste collection and recycling organizations into more sustainable initiatives promoting environmentally and commercially sound waste disposal. In connection with this main theme, several sub-themes will be covered including: innovative waste collection and recycling models, solid waste management governance, role of local government in waste management, sustainability of waste picker organizations, grassroots innovations and practical lessons/success stories across various cities in different countries. The conference opening will be on April 29th 2019, followed by Roundtable Discussions, Workshops (specifically for waste picker organizations) and site visits between April 30th and May 3rd 2019. The conference will entail presentations and demonstrations of various models of sustainable and inclusive waste management by project partners, discussing specific experiences and lessons learned, policies and the generation of new ideas and resolutions for inclusive and improved waste management in Dar es Salaam and other cities involved in the project. All events will involve the research team, local government, waste pickers, intermediaries, recyclers, processors and other key actors, as well as other international interested participants.
www.JuttaGutberlet.com and www.pswm.uvic.ca
María José Zapata Campos