Understanding the world of the informal waste picker

Syllabus: GS- III, Subject: Environment and ecology, Topic: Waste Management, Issue: Municipal waste

Informal waste pickers:

  • Play a critical role in waste management and resource efficiency by collecting, sorting, trading and sometimes even recycling.
  • Globally, 0.5-2% of the urban population are informal waste pickers, with around 1.5 million in India alone. (Centre for Science and Environment)

Reason for marginalization of informal waste pickers:

  • Hazardous work without safety equipment.
  • Irregular work, low income, and regular harassment are compounded by their subordinate position in the caste hierarchy.

The way ahead:

  • As India’s per capita plastic waste generation increases, waste pickers’ role becomes even more critical.
+1 Advantage for Mains (data point)

·         Waste pickers globally collect and recycle up to 60% of all plastic waste, preventing it from ending up in landfills or the ocean. (World Economic Forum report)

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