New job vacancy

Luleå University of Technology has an open position for a chaired Professor in Waste Science and Technology.

WasteSafe 2019

VI International Conference on Integrated Solid Waste & Faecal Sludge Management in South-Asian Countries, 23-24 February 2019, Khulna, Bangladesh. Website

4th IWWG-ARB Symposium

4th Symposium of the IWWG Asian Regional Branch, 20-22 February 2019, Bangkok, Thailand. Website

* IWWG co-sponsored events

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.

Informal recycling at the landfill Gramacho in BrazilInformal recycler in Mendoça Argentina

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. The founding members have convened for the first time at the beginning of November and have suggested exploring the following proposed ideas for future work.

  • Organize a comprehensive and up-to-date webpage with detailed information on informal recycling and current research projects and results from TGIR members.
  • Jointly organize a workshop session on ‘informal recycling’ during one of the forthcoming IWWG conferences. We have earmarked SUM 2016, the Third Symposium on Urban Mining in Bergamo, Italy, 23.-25. September 2016) if not earlier.
  • Connect with the wide range of institutions, organizations, individual scholars, and practitioners working on informal recycling. Organize a net of affiliates to the TGIR.
  • Stimulate knowledge dissemination among TGIR members and affiliates.
  • Encourage the exchange of the existing knowledge from each TGIR member through hands-on research praxis.

TG members (2016)

Jutta Gutberlet Department of Geography, University of Victoria Canada
María José Zapata Campos School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg Sweden
Michael Oloko School of Engineering and Technology, Odinga University of Science and Technology Kenya
Nídia Nacib Pontuschka Faculdade de Educação, Universidade de São Paulo Brazil
Patrik Zapata School of Public Administration, University of Gothenburg Sweden
Roland Ramusch Institute of Waste Management, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) Austria
Sebastián Carenzo Instituto de Estudios sobre la Ciencia y la Tecnología (IESCT), Universidad Nacional de Quilmes (UNQ) Argentina


Contact and TG Leader

Dr. Jutta GutberletJutta Gutberlet
Dept. Geography, University of Victoria
Phone: 1 250 472 4537


Next meetings

The next meeting is scheduled for 6. January 2016.


Forthcoming conferences:

  • AAG 2016: Sanitation inadequacy: Beyond poverty and preferences, San Francisco, USA, March 29, 2016 - April 2, 2016.
  • SUM-Third Symposium on Urban Mining in Bergamo, Italy, May 23-25, 2016
  • 6th Ethnography and Qualitative Research Conference, Bergamo: Ethnographies of Waste Politics, Bergamo, Italy, June 8-11, 2016.
  • 3rd International Congress on Water, Waste and Energy Management, Rome, Italy, July 18-20, 2016.
  • NAERUS conference (Network-Association of European Researchers on Urbanisation in the South), Gothenburg, Sweden, November 7-19, 2016.