A new report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) illustrates how government investment into zero waste systems presents an opportunity for economic recovery and social justice.
Froilan Grate, GAIA Asia Pacific regional coordinator and executive director of GAIA Philippines, in a statement said the inclusion of the informal waste sector in municipal waste management systems is a win for both waste pickers and local governments.
“Waste pickers benefit from increased income and better, safer livelihoods. Local governments benefit from reduced disposal cost through increased waste diversion. Cities also benefit from the expertise of the waste pickers, given their familiarity with recyclable materials and organics management,” Grate added.
The report cited the experience of the city of San Fernando in Pampanga which hired informal waste workers to be part of their zero waste system, performing the tasks of collection, street sweeping, waste classification, and management of the materials recovery facility.
The report said the city has surpassed the 80 percent waste diversion rate from landfill, and provided salaries and better working conditions to contracted workers.
Studies indicate the recycling rates achieved by the sector range from 20 to 50 percent in China, Pakistan, India, and the Philippines, to up to 80 percent in Cairo, Egypt when the service was managed by waste pickers.
The job creation potential for inclusive recycling systems is estimated to be on average 321 jobs per 10,000 tons per year of recyclables.
The work of waste pickers often serves as a cushion for extreme poverty. In times of crisis, income from the sale of recyclables helps combat hunger in places out of the government’s reach, the report added.