Inclusive Recovery IWPD Press release

On International Waste Pickers’ Day, Report Shows that Cities That Partner with Informal Recyclers Create Good Jobs, Help the Climate , and Save Money

Working with Waste Pickers is Essential to an Inclusive Economic Recovery

28 February 2021 The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about devastating economic turmoil across the globe. Consequently, the agendas of many governments are currently centred on economic recovery, job creation, and poverty alleviation. A new GAIA report, shows how government investment into zero waste systems presents an opportunity for economic recovery and social justice.

The report can be found at

The report highlights that through forging partnerships with informal recyclers using dedicated economic recovery funds, governments can make a transition to zero waste city systems. Based on research from countries in the global south such as South Africa, Brazil, India, and China, this report finds that inclusive zero-waste cities have led to greater economic justice for people doing essential work, cost-saving for cities and better environmental outcomes.

It also uncovers the extent to which  informal recyclers have become the cornerstone of recycling in Global South cities. Statistics show that in South Africa, waste pickers recover between 80 to 90% of the post-consumption packaging and paper. In Brazil, the National Waste Pickers Movement (MNCR) is responsible for collecting 90% of all material recycled in the country. Moreover, in India it is estimated that waste pickers recycle 54% of all recycled glass, 34-45% of all recycled plastic, and 28-50% of all recycled cardboard and mixed paper.

 Cecilia Allen, GAIA’s global projects advisor and author of the report, said:

“Governments have an opportunity to build from waste pickers’ experience, by supporting and investing in their inclusion into municipal waste management systems. This will not only improve the lives of the poorest but will also help governments find a way out of waste disposal systems, which present a never-ending headache of high costs and environmental impacts.”

The report demonstrates that by local governments recognising the essential role informal recyclers already play and partnering with them, they can collaboratively work to create local jobs and provide better recycling and composting services. Based on data from several cities that contract with waste pickers, the average number of jobs created by inclusive waste management systems is 321 jobs per 10,000 tonnes per year of recyclables.

Press Contact: 

Carissa Marnce, GAIA Africa Communications Officer |


GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries. With our work we aim to catalyze a global shift towards environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. We envision a just, zero waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped.