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Community Initiatives

Micro-Enterprises Can Improve Recycling and Waste Collection Rates

Communities suffering a shortage of good solid waste services from their local government sometimes gather the necessary social capital to work together in addressing their own public service needs until they are able to partner with government entities. There are numerous replicable initiatives wherein communities set up women-owned collection cooperatives, upgrade itinerant waste pickers (pdf file) to provide door-to-door collection using pushcarts or small vehicles, establish neighborhood-based youth groups for collection, or contract to micro-enterprises. Some of the community initiatives set up neighborhood composting or vermin-composting facilities. Collection of user charges from each household is part of the overall design of each community initiative. Countries with good examples include India, Bangladesh, Ghana, and Burkina Faso.

Encourage Neighborhood Involvement in Waste Minimization and Collection 

Where door-to-door collection of wastes by the municipality is infeasible, a neighborhood might bring its waste to a communal collection container. If the container is placed on the neighborhood periphery where it can be readily emptied, its visibility would provide motivation to the city for emptying. Also, the neighborhood could pay a container emptying fee to the municipality, to provide an economic incentive that establishes a consumer-client relationship, as has been supported in Bank-projects in Indonesia, Ghana and Guinea. The neighborhood would collect user charges in accordance with each household’s ability to pay. People are typically more willing to pay for direct door-to-door service, especially to people that they know and trust to deliver service.

Involvement of Waste Pickers in Waste Collection Produces Multiple Benefits

Communities that reside and work as waste pickers at open dumps typically involve the poorest and most long-suffering residents of a city. Thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands, of waste pickers and their families may live on and around an open dump, breathing the fumes of toxic gaseous emissions and smoke from open burning, as they sort through wastes for subsistence existence. Efforts to organize, legitimize, upgrade, and support these people are part of many projects to improve solid waste disposal conditions. Typically the adults of the family are issued identification badges and trained in new methods of working. They are given a roofed/sheltered area to sort, wash, and bale their materials so that they can better meet industry specifications and obtain higher prices. They may be provided with transportation so that they can take their recovered materials to buyers, and thus avoid the clutches of the buyer’s agents that act as middle-men and keep their selling prices down. Bank projects can provide the impetus to break the grip of control that corrupt political forces often have over this work, and enable waste pickers to network with industry for a better livelihood.

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