Zambia’s First National Symposium for Waste Pickers on Plastic Pollution

Centre for Zero Waste & Development in Africa (CZWDA) and Citizens Environmental & Social Concern (CESCo) held a joint national symposium for waste pickers on plastic pollution. The event which was held on 22 October, was the first national symposium for waste pickers in Lusaka, Zambia.

The objective of the symposium was to advocate for waste picker rights, promote plastic reduction, advocate for a total ban on single-use plastic bags, promote separation of waste from source and zero waste, as well as to demand ambitious plastic policy, through national alliance-building

The meeting brought together different actors in the waste management sector, such as the local government, the Zambia Environmental Agency,  local waste pickers from the Lusaka and Serenje region, and the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA), who joined the meeting to share experiences on waste picker organising in South Africa.


Image courtesy of CESCO & CZWDA

During the gathering, speakers highlighted the role that waste pickers play in recycling and in achieving a circular economy. Despite their valuable contributions to the environment, waste pickers in the country face challenges such as: abuse and lack of respect from communities, lack of recognition from the government, a lack of personal protective equipment, and the transportation of their recyclable materials.

Speakers also addressed the importance of recognising and formalising waste pickers in the country’s waste management plans, as well as engaging them in policy formulation in the waste sector.

Nkwilimba Given, Project Coordinator from CZWDA, said that there is a need to implement bylaws for separation of waste at source, to aid the work of waste pickers. Furthermore, he added that manufacturers need to work with waste pickers, to address the waste management crisis.

“Manufacturers need to recycle and reuse the plastic waste they produce. It, therefore, makes sense to engage waste pickers to collect these materials from the environment, as a way of helping to solve the problem of waste management in the country. This will further encourage the reusing and recycling of waste materials,” said Nkwilimba.

Conwell Hakapya, Executive Director of CESCO said that there is hope that the future of waste pickers in the country looks bright, because of the huge support they received from stakeholders in the country during the symposium.

“ Waste pickers for the very first time in Zambia will have a voice in the corridors of power, and their plight will be heard, slave wages will soon be a thing of the past. We are very optimistic that within a year Zambian waste pickers will be able to walk with their heads held high with dignity and respect.”