While municipally-run recycling systems are commonplace in industrialized countries, in the developing world, most recycling is done by wastepickers. Wastepickers are self-employed workers, mostly in the informal economy, who retrieve reusable and recyclable items from the waste stream.
Wastepickers collect, sort, clean and in some cases, process the recyclables, returning them to industry as an inexpensive and lowcarbon raw material. In doing so, wastepickers relieve the public authority of much of the expense of waste management and lengthen the lifespan of landfills.
Recycling provides a livelihood to approximately 15 million people worldwide – 1% of the urban population in the developing world. Wastepickers can be incredibly efficient recyclers, achieving recycling rates higher than 80% in places where they handle organic material, such as Cairo.
Yet, in spite of their efforts, much municipal waste around the world is not effectively recycled. Wastepickers thus represent a huge opportunity to reduce GHG emissions through increased recycling rates, if given the proper recognition and support.
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