Integrating the Informal Sector for Improved Waste Management in Rural Communities

Integrating the Informal Sector for Improved Waste Management in Rural Communities

Veronika Alhanaqtah
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7158-2.ch012
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The chapter dwells on the theoretical and practical aspects of the informal sector involvement in the system of waste management in rural communities. First, the author discusses peculiar properties of the informal sector involvement such as social, economic, and environmental peculiarities. Second, organizing the informal sector in rural areas is considered. Such issues as the role of community members, organizational structures of community-based organizations, problems of community-based waste management, and directions of its solutions are covered. Third, the author provides summary of experience and policy recommendations for the integration of the informal sector in the waste management system in rural areas. The author concludes that policies facilitating the integration of the informal sector result in increasing recyclable recovery rates and reduction of total waste-management costs. Partnership with the informal recycling sector improves resource efficiency in rural areas and contributes to poverty reduction and environmental improvements.
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The issue of sustainable development was discussed for the first time during the Earth Summit in Rio-de-Janeiro in 1992. Decision-makers agreed that sustainable solid waste management is the key issue. In 2000 the world’s governments committed themselves to achieving the Millennium Development Goals1, and waste services were widely acknowledged as the principal means through which these goals could be achieved (Kessler & Alexander, 2005). Although there are no direct references to solid waste in the specific targets, the Millennium Development Goals call for appropriate environmental considerations as well as social awareness of the problems of waste pickers and other poor people (Dorvil, 2007).

In different studies it has been indicated that the term “waste pickers” is used in referring to persons who literally live on waste and are completely dependent on it for their food and clothing. The application of the term “waste pickers” greatly varies: scavengers, collectors, recyclers, rag-pickers, intermediaries, small industries, neighborhood groups and cooperatives (Ojeda-Benitez, Armijo-de-Vega & Ramirez-Barreto, 2002). Blight and Mbande (1996) identified three categories of waste pickers, namely: scavenging for self-consumption2, recovery of materials for sale to consumers3, recovery of materials for sale to industry4. In some countries, the waste pickers are mainly men organized or grouped in bands or trade unions. In other cultures, the waste pickers are women or entire families of men, women and children.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Recycling: The process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects.

Informal Recovery of Recyclables: Activity in which scavengers (waste pickers, rag pickers, salvagers, reclaimers) recover materials from waste for reuse or recycling.

Community-Based Solid Waste Management Projects: Activities carried out by members of communities to clean up their neighborhood and/or to earn an income from solid waste.

Solid Waste (Trash, Garbage, Refuse, Rubbish): A waste type consisting of everyday items that are discarded by the public. It includes municipal waste, agricultural waste, mining waste, and industrial waste.

Communal: Belonging to a group of households. Communal storage is a container or collection point where residents from more than one household should put their waste. Communal collection is the collection of waste from communal storage.

Valorization: The transformation of waste/biomass to valuable materials and energy.

Neighborhood: A geographical and/or administrative entity in which a community lives.

Informal Waste Sector: Individuals or small and micro-enterprises that intervene in waste management without being registered and without being formally charged with providing waste management services.

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