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A Waste Hero Alliance: Youth Visions for the inclusion and empowerment of informal waste workers in Asian Circular Cities

Focusing on five areas with an impact on the livelihoods of informal waste workers, this report presents key policy recommendations ideated by youth based on inputs from informal waste workers and feedback from other stakeholders.

Chloe Pottinger-Glass / Published on 27 September 2022

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Salazar, J. B., Carraway, B., MacKenzie, C., Ongvasith, P., Sethi, P., Pottinger-Glass, C. and Pal, B. C. (2022). A Waste Hero Alliance: Youth Visions for the inclusion and empowerment of informal waste workers in Asian Circular Cities. Yunus Thailand.

The Waste Hero Alliance is the result of an innovative multi-stakeholder policy dialogue series that connected informal waste workers and youth in Bangladesh, Lao PDR, the Philippines and Thailand and engaged others with a stake or interest in solid waste management and crosscutting related subjects, including academia, civil society organizations, private sector and government institutions.

The dialogue series resulted in five key policy recommendations presented in the report along with implementation ideas and spotlights on existing initiatives. The report aims to invite a cross-sectoral movement of allies committed to contributing to a shared vision of an inclusive circular economy with empowered workers.

  • Many cities and communities in developing countries in Asia and other regions are faced with complex challenges to ensure adequate solid waste management systems that safeguard human and environmental health. Informal waste workers are key players in closing gaps by recovering valuable materials and diverting them back into the economy primarily via recycling markets. However, operating in informality usually entails precarious living and working conditions. Gender-based and other forms of social exclusion further contribute to unstable, often unsafe, and inequitable dynamics.
  • Inadequate environmental resource management disproportionately impacts the poor and all future generations, including in vulnerable communities where most informal waste workers live. Youth activists around the world have risen as ambassadors of future generations, vulnerable groups, and environmental challenges of today. Including youth perspectives in future transitions is key to sustainable development pathways.
  • Incorporating waste workers today empowers them as dignified workers tomorrow, as the “heroes” of resource recovery.
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SEI author

Chloe Pottinger-Glass

Research Associate

SEI Asia

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