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Accepted Contribution:

What place is there in the circular economy for informal workers?  
Sonia Dias (WIEGO)

Contribution short abstract:

Amid transformatory pressures, this contribution assesses what place there is for informal waste pickers in today’s complex circular systems.

Contribution long abstract:

The UNEP Circularity Platform highlights that circularity transition needs to be inclusive to trigger the transition from a “winners vs. losers” to a “win-win” situation not only for the conservation of the environment but for the well-being of all. But what place is there for informal waste pickers in circular systems given the complexity of such systems?

If we look back in the past for answers, we can see that in the turn of the 19th to the 20th century when modern solid waste management was born, i.e. the moment where solid waste collection and disposal systems were created and started to be managed by municipalities, prompted by the growth of the urban reform movement that spawned from discoveries that linked filth with the spread of diseases we can see evidences for displacement of the waste workers of that time. As the well-off began to connect street waste with the spread of diseases, those who worked in the informal collection of waste became more and more stigmatized and, gradually, legislation was introduced to address the problem of poor sanitation conditions in ways that excluded them

As we fast forward to present days in which circular economy concepts are quickly spreading around the world, how will informal workers be affected by the blurring distinction between raw materials and wastes, by new legislation and procedures that comes with it? Is there a place for social inclusion within circular economy concept? What are the challenges in terms of ownership of materials and requirements for traceability that informal workers will face and most of all what frameworks will be in place for a just transition to circular economies? This presentation will examine these questions bringing in insights from action research in the Global South.

Roundtable P62
Global social challenges for development studies in the crisis in the anthropocene
  Session 1 Thursday 29 June, 2023, -