Consumption of single-use plastics such as surgical masks and disposable cups has shot up since the advent of COVID-19, leading to ever more waste for pickers to collect – a thankless task that comes with no social security benefits, nor a share of government pandemic relief.

According to a 2019 report published by the German Corporation for International Cooperation development agency, a general lack of recycling infrastructure in Cambodia means much of the material collected by waste pickers is sold on to middlemen who export it to Thailand and Vietnam.

Bangkok-based Diane Archer, a senior research fellow at SEI, who is part of a project that seeks to give Thailand’s informal waste workers the chance to benefit from innovations in waste management, said her team’s initial results show most workers have seen their incomes plummet this year, as they are finding less material to collect and the price of recyclables has fallen.

“There is still a lack of basic data such as on how many people work as informal waste workers, but addressing health and safety, particularly protective equipment like gloves, could be a good way to start engaging with [them],” she said.

Read the full article posted in South China Morning Post.