Informal Sector stakeholders in EPR
Awareness, Extended Producer Responsibility, Getting Started

Informal Sector- Role of Stakeholders in EPR

This final article in the Role of Stakeholders in EPR series is by far the most important role in its implementation. 94% of the electronic waste generated in India is recycled by the informal sector. Yet, they do not receive their deserved recognition.

The last couple of years saw a significant change in the way organisations, governments, and other stakeholders perceived this sector. There is special emphasis on their working conditions, health and safety due to the harsh conditions they work in.

The EPR implementation in the Indian context is contrastingly different, it is because the informal sector plays an extremely crucial role in managing plastic and e-waste in the country.

What is the informal sector

Waste pickers, kabadiwala, safaiwala, and many others of the informal sector are an unrecognised backbone of the waste management system in India. The informal sector of waste recycling in India provides employment to more than 2,50,000 people. They account for less than 2% of the population yet they recycle the waste generated by 90% of the population*.

The market of electronics and plastic products is growing at a rapid pace and so is the waste generated from them. EPR or Extended Producer Responsibility is a crucial policy measure to tackle the waste generated. The responsibility of channeling and recycling the waste after its end-of-life use lies with the Producer, Importer, or Brand Owner (PIBOs).

Similar to India, Singapore’s e-waste recycling sector is dominated by the informal sector – which urgently needs to be formalised and made inclusive. With a collaborative EPR framework in place, Singapore is set to roll out its “New disposal system to channelise its e-waste”.

This final blog in the series will focus on the role of stakeholders in supporting the Informal Sector and the benefits this sector will reap from EPR implementation.

Role of Stakeholders in supporting the Informal Sector

Formalisation into the system

The informal sector or the unorganised sector of waste management is rich in knowledge and capacity but lacks inclusivity into the main system. Lack of representation, support and most importantly recognition devoid them of many basic services as a worker in the system.

As stated above they recycle more than 95% of the waste being generated in India, making them the most essential stakeholder in the system. Other stakeholders can champion for them and work towards formalising their roles.

By formalisation we mean – Registration, having social representation, eligibility for benefits, business support and most importantly having a voice and a representation in the system.

“…large-scale collection and disposal of WEEE can only be achieved if the informal sector is integrated into formal waste management activities” – Adelphi

Few of the many smiles at the Recykal Point. They are formalised members of the informal sector with Recykal IDs, and Bank Accounts
Few of the many smiles at the Recykal Point. They are formalised members of the informal sector with Recykal IDs, and Bank Accounts

Creation of a waste channel by stakeholders

This may be a generalised responsibility but the most crucial would be to include the informal sector into the waste channel system. Having an inclusive waste channel will help in the efficient movement of waste.

By this we mean, a collaboration of various stakeholders in making the informal sector an important part of the transportation, collection, sorting, and recycling of the waste. Rather than bypassing them, they can be educated and provided with the necessary infrastructure to carefully handle the waste.

Mechanisation of waste management

The ground realities of working in a landfill or a dump yard or a DRCC (Dry Resource Collection Centre) are startling. Many of the waste collectors do not have the basic equipment or tools and machines to help them work safely.

PIBOs can strengthen the sector by providing basic safety gear, upgrading the facilities to have mechanical sorters, conveyors for easy sorting, forklifts for loading of waste, and others, etc. This would help them increase their efficiency and work in a safer environment.

Awareness Creation by stakeholders

The above roles are redundant if they are not made aware of the pros and cons of their working conditions and the need to improve them at the earliest. Brand conglomerates like WeCare work closely with local authorities in educating and bringing awareness to this society.

Alternatively, awareness must be raised on these following aspects:

  • Types of waste to be collected – there are many recyclable and non-recyclables that can be sold to make revenue. Recykal provides fair renumeration to all types of waste collected.
  • Workshops on OH&S – Evidence shows that they are exposed to toxic gases, harmful and hazardous substances, lack of awareness on the side effects etc.
  • Basic Education – Many are forced into the profession as a child and continue to work with receiving proper education. Providing access to basic education will help them understand their rights.
Awareness program by WeCare in association with Recykal at a DRCC in Tamil Nadu
Awareness program by WeCare in association with Recykal at a DRCC in Tamil Nadu

Access Points & Fair Pricing

As a PRO we work with various stakeholders in the waste management ecosystem. Additionally we also set up infrastructure -Recykal Point, that provides fair and transparent renumeration to waste collectors who bring in ALL types of Plastic waste.

What is a Recykal Point?

It is a collection and processing center for plastic waste, which serves consumers, bulk generators, industrial waste generators, and most importantly to the informal sector which includes kabadiwalas, waste collectors, etc. Recykal point plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between the informal sector and the recyclers around the country.

While we bridge the gap, we provide members of the sector with fair, and transparent pricing. When paid a fair price, they are provided with a better livelihood and empowered.

Our team has worked with many brands and members of the informal sector in providing safe and inclusive services to each other.

Recykal Point providing fair renumeration to waste collectors for ALL types of waste
Recykal Point providing fair renumeration to waste collectors for ALL types of waste

Team Recykal works towards bridging the gap between a brand’s EPR fulfillment and the poor-yet-rich informal sector that can effectively manage the waste with their knowledge. The above listed are a few of the many Role of Stakeholders in the EPR implementation that can help uplift and empower the informal sector.

Benefits to the Informal Sector from EPR Implementation

  • Improved Working Conditions
  • Transparent and Fair revenue for the collected waste
  • Eradicating Child-Labour in the sector
  • Improved Livelihood through safe working conditions
  • Access to Healthcare due to formalisation
  • A recognition to their voice and opinions through local, state and national level representation

Finally, there are numerous benefits that this sector can reap through EPR implementation. Additionally, the benefits have a cascading effect on the entire ecosystem.

Team Recykal has tirelessly worked towards this sector, in providing them awareness on the dangers of unsafe recycling procedures, formal training to adults, training children, and most importantly making them a part o the formal system where they receive their deserved recognition

In conclusion, the Role of Stakeholders in EPR series highlights the importance of each stakeholder in the ecosystem. Additionally it emphasises on the responsibilities various members in the system.

If you are a brand, a ULB, an officer of the government, or an organisation working with the informal sector and are looking to channel your plastic waste – get in touch with us and we can assure you transparent and easily traceable services!

*Approximated estimate

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