SustainabilityUnearthing Scope of Informal Workforce to Enhance Sustainable, Traceable Waste Management Mechanism

Unearthing Scope of Informal Workforce to Enhance Sustainable, Traceable Waste Management Mechanism

The Policy Times and Sampurn(e)arth Environment Solutions Pvt. Ltd. is organizing an Online Webinar to highlight an action plan to formally integrate informal workforce to waste management mechanism on ‘Unearthing Scope of Informal Workforce to Enhance Sustainable, Traceable Waste Management Mechanism’ during 4.30 pm-6 pm (IST) on Friday 12th November 2021 through Zoom.

India generates 62 million tonnes of waste each year. About 43 million tonnes (70%) are collected of which about 12 million tonnes are treated and 31 million tonnes are dumped in landfill sites. A huge part of it is possible through the undisputed contribution of the informal workforce as ground-level aggregators in the collection, sorting, and cleaning of post-consumer waste. Consequently, India has one of the highest rigid plastic recycling rates in the world. We recycle 70% of all rigid plastics as compared to 31% in the USA. Waste management is an enabler of a sustainable world and simultaneously a source of economic solutions to at least 1.5 million to 4 million people in India. In urban areas, 2-3% of the population sustains their livelihoods through the waste generated in their concerned cities. The recent policy focus on waste management has gradually alleviated it to a compliance-based system with the potential to increase outcomes for the involved stakeholders that includes one of the most under-recognized and marginalized stakeholders i.e. informal workforce. Although the recent policy has put the informal workforce into consideration a more comprehensive and concrete roadmap is necessary to formally integrate them into the system.

The Policy Times and Sampurn(e)arth Environment Solutions Pvt. Ltd. is organizing an Online Webinar to highlight an action plan to formally integrate informal workforce to waste management mechanism on ‘Unearthing Scope of Informal Workforce to Enhance Sustainable, Traceable Waste Management Mechanism’ during 4.30 pm-6 pm (IST) on Friday 12th November 2021 through Zoom.

Suggestions & Recommendations:

  • Inclusion And Recognition: Informal waste workers have been instrumental keys to driving India’s waste management mechanism from very early.Although recent policies have put due focus on them. Formal inclusion and recognition could create an enhanced and equitable waste management system in the nation.
  • The intervention of Civil society And Corporates: Conscious and frequent intervention of corporates and civil society to reinforce the status of informal workers. The active focus of corporations is to make waste management a profit-sharing model for informal workers given their contribution.
  • Empowering Informal Workforce To Drive Self-Motivated Participation: Although the informal workforce is one of the most valuable stakeholders strengthening the foundation of the nation’s waste management mechanism, they are the most impoverished and marginalized link in the chain. We must review the traditional outlook and reform remuneration, dignity of labor, and living conditions of informal workers. Given the fact, most informal workers are not working out of their own volition but as the last option to earn a livelihood. Alleviating their overall condition may drive enthusiastic and voluntary participation.
  • Innovation In Waste Handling Equipment And Transportation: Innovations in waste handling equipment could induce seamless and contactless waste processing and humanized working conditions for waste pickers, and sanitation workers.
  • Humanizing Working Condition To Boost Morale: Innovative waste management model humanizing the work process of informal workers could boost the morale of informal workers thus increasing enthusiastic, energized, and voluntary contribution.
  • Informed Dialogue And Upskilling: Informed dialogues and upskilling the informal workers to handle the latest technology and decrease manual labor. Also upskilling them to enhance their quality of work and update to a higher level of stakeholder transition than their current state.
  • Adequate Resources Translating Better Compensation: Pumping adequate resources could translate to better compensation for the informal workforce.
  • Encouraging Entrepreneurship: Encouraging entrepreneurship could introduce innovative solutions in different levels of waste management.
  • Access To Institutional Finance And Financial Literacy: Access to institutional finance and financial literacy for aspiring entrepreneurs amongst the informal workforce could further encourage entrepreneurial spirit in the ecosystem.
  • Promote Circularity: Promoting circularity to make waste management a resource-rich and profitable profession.
  • Partnership With Informal Stakeholders for Viable, Inclusive And Equitable Waste Management: Partnership with the informal waste workers could facilitate the circulation of shared profit, recognition, knowledge, micro-finance, etc for viable, inclusive, and equitable Waste Management and also create a smooth and closely-knit supply chain.
  • Self-Help Group: Self-Help groups amongst informal workers could solely mobilize the ground level of waste and channel it to proper sources enhancing ULBs as local executors.
  • Favorable Ecosystems: Favourable waste management ecosystem could help these SHGs to scale up to a much larger level of the formal institution with better capacity and potential.

Best Practices- Goa Model of Waste Management:

Sampurn(e)arth,  a social enterprise that has increasingly worked in the direction of formalization and further integration of the informal sector in the process of Plastic Waste Management in India, is all set to embark on its journey of inclusive waste management with Goa Waste Management Corporation, as a registered Producer Responsibility Organisation.

Sampurn(e)arth in close collaboration with GWMC and ULBs aims to facilitate the process of formalization for many scrap dealers as well as their workers. To ensure the following- 

  1. Their compliance with the environmental and social rules and regulations.
  2. Generation of legal documents 
  3. Establishment of a transparent data tracking system that may be audited at any moment.

The silver lining to this ambitious project is that many of the informal waste processing workers in the network of Sampurn(e)arth have readily conceded to work in tandem with the enterprise, thereby complying with the laws and regulations.

Sampurn(e)arth firmly believes that by facilitating the provision of required documents for these informal waste networks such as NOC and Pollution Control Board licences, as well as an awareness campaign within communities to build trust and accelerate waste segregation at source, GWMC can act as a role model in the sphere of plastic waste management for the entire nation.

Conclusion:

Work in the informal recycling sector is typically precarious and performed under appalling health and occupational safety conditions, sometimes inhumane. Waste pickers, particularly those who work at open dumps, face significant risks of injury: they may be run over by trucks or become victims of surface subsidence, landfill slides, and fires. They are also subjected to high levels of toxic fumes at the disposal site. Morbidity among waste pickers is generally thought to be higher than among formal waste collectors. Hence, taking into account all the prevailing conditions in the status quo the mobilization of the informal sector must take place at the earliest possible. And, to do so, policy changes must cater to the specific circumstances of the informal sector, ensuring formal and state-sponsored integration of the informal sector. 

Regularizing and integrating informal recovery into the overall plastic waste system has the potential to increase recyclable recovery rates while decreasing overall solid waste management costs. In general, policies that promote the integration of the informal sector will increase the rate of material recovery. As a result, disposal rates will fall, resulting in cost savings in transportation and landfill operations

Speakers & Contributors:

  • Smt. Saloni Goel, Climate Change Specialist at NITI Aayog
  • Mr. Debartha Banerjee, Co-Founder & Director Sampurn(e)arth Environment Solutions
  • Zahra M, Director-Social support program, Sampurn(e)arth Envir Solutions
  • Ms. Nalini Shekar, Social Activist, Entrepreneur & Co-founder Hasiru Dala (Green Force)
  • Ms. Shefali Bakshi, Junior Associate & Technical Training Lead for Swachh Survekshan 2021 Quality Council of India(QCI)
  • Mr. Akram Hoque, Founder-Editor, The Policy Times
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