Why India’s waste pickers are key to a fair climate deal

Posted on 3 Jan 2017 in

There are over 25 million waste pickers in India, writes Sarah Colenbrander.

They face serious discrimination and severe health impacts as a result of their work. Yet they provide a valuable social service.

Their efforts reduce the amount of waste in the streets, which lessens the health risks that other city dwellers face. Waste picking is also an effective form of recycling, allowing the urban poor to recover and re-use products that wealthier people have thrown away.

Yet when local governments design low-carbon strategies, they rarely recognise the important role that waste pickers can play. Too often, they focus on technological fixes such as incineration or landfill gas utilisation.

These measures can help to reduce emissions, but they are only part of the solution. If they are going to reduce poverty and vulnerability to climate change, city governments need to work closely with low-income communities.