Research has highlighted the importance of waste pickers to cities around the world

The study found these workers improves the cleanliness of cities, while the role provides valuable employment for some of the world’s poorest people, despite the often negative stigma attached to the job.

The research from Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), a network that seeks to improve conditions for women who make their living through the world’s informal economy, examined the conditions and status of workers across five cities in different parts of the world.

WIEGO found that where local governments make efforts to integrate waste pickers into formal waste management systems and provide protected spaces for sorting rubbish, waste pickers have higher earnings, waste removal services are improved, local authorities save money and job-related health issues are reduced. But informal workers also reported challenges such as increased competition from other waste pickers, a reduction in prices for recyclables and stigmatisation.

Photo: Thierry Gouegnon / Reuters