Grassroot Solutions : Including Waste Pickers in Waste Management Strategies

waste management

It is rather surprising that several waste management strategies miss one of the crucial players in the entire framework – the waste pickers. And, this exclusion of the very primary element in the waste management cycle weakens the entire execution plan.

Now, it has been accepted by policy makers throughout the world that waste management is perhaps one of the most pressing challenges of this century. A century when we have evolved technologically, where automation is knocking on the door of almost every aspect of our lives, and where ‘getting things done’ seems to be the new mantra – society as a whole is still struggling to find a concrete solution on how to manage the volume of waste being generated.

Waste pickers : Level one of the ideal waste management plan

Recycling of waste is one of the critical aspects of every waste management plan. In fact, as far as policy makers are concerned, it is a means through which not only is the volume of waste taken care of, but avenues of increased national income can also be opened. Waste pickers form the primary link which connects waste and the recycling industry. Often hailing from low-income groups, waste pickers are known for their knack of sorting and bundling different types of waste. In fact, what is seen by many as just a heap of garbage, they see as stuff which can be easily recycled and reused. And even though not acknowledged, waste pickers do have a substantial role in bringing down the global carbon footprint.

Integrating waste pickers into the waste management framework

The need of the hour is to organize waste pickers into a strong community and integrating them with recyclers from around the globe and thereby, building a robust waste management framework. Brazil has been one of the first countries to recognize the importance of waste pickers in the waste management cause, and has framed a policy which enables cooperatives of waste pickers to contract as service providers. The Vaal Park Recycling Centre, in South Africa is yet another example of waste pickers’ cooperative working towards making waste management an attainable goal.

By providing a legal framework and encouraging cooperatives, governments are playing the pivotal role of including waste pickers into the building of an effective waste management plan.

Many waste management plans until recently failed to accommodate the primary players in their arena. Perhaps this is a major reason behind unsuccessful waste recycling projects. But, experience has shown that integrating the people, right from those involved at the grassroot level, goes a long way in sustainable waste management. It is critical that waste pickers be given their due recognition, and the right to bid for solid waste management contracts. Integrating waste pickers across the waste management activities will not only benefit this small community, but will go a long way in battling the growing challenge of addressing waste creation.

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