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Solid Waste Management

Waste collecting

Waste is a universal and highly visible phenomenon. The perspectives towards solid waste are often contradictory: While by affluent societies it is often considered plainly as garbage or an environmental problem, in many cities in Africa and other developing countries it is an important and flexible source of income for the large part of urban population and provides raw material to many sectors of economy. Waste collectors form a vital part of the economy in nearly every city of the developing world. Operating on the streets, curb-sides and dumps, this group of people collect, sort, clean, recycle and sell material thrown away by others, therefore contributing to public health, sanitation and environmental sustainability. According to estimates, “about 1 per cent of the urban population – at least 15 million people – survive by salvaging recyclables from waste”, in the developing world. Practical Action are working with some of the poorest communities to safely and securely improve their waste management and collection methods. This brings improvements to the health of the slum dwelling families and the creation of safer healthier places to live and work. Our approach on waste-related work is similar to that in other infrastructure and services. It falls into four areas:

  1. 1. Working towards improving service provision in slum, peri urban and low income areas. This involves making arrangements for waste collection through organising communities or influencing municipalities and private sector. We expect that the social outcome of this provision, if done at scale, is improved health and a cleaner living environment.

  2. 2. We encourage income and employment creation from waste related activities and promote decent, safer work for the poor. This can often be combined with the provision of services in their own areas, or other areas where the income potential may be better. This is also supported by introducing innovative approaches and better technologies for waste reduction, recycling and reuse.

  3. 3. We directly support the development of better technologies, knowledge, innovation and communication for all the actors in waste management. This can be done in a number of ways, for example by encouraging research organisations to focus on topics which benefit the poor, promoting mutual learning and enhancing abilities of self analysis and learning.

  4. 4. We influence national and global policies in waste management in favour of poor men and women. We promote successful models and lobby for better practices globally.