Why 2022 is a big year for plastics and waste pickers

The vital role of waste pickers in the management of plastics globally has been highlighted in a recent BBC radio programme, Business Daily

Many of the social enterprises that Bin Twinning supports work closely with these informal workers who are responsible for 60 per cent of plastic collection globally… and yet whose contribution is largely unseen.

Rich Gower, an economist working with our Bin Twinning partners, hopes this may be about to change. He attended the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi in March, where world leaders made the momentous decision to launch negotiations for a global treaty on plastics for the first time. They also recognised the important role that waste pickers play in the plastics economy.

‘Waste pickers prevent large amounts of plastic from being dumped and burnt so they are providing this really vital service and it’s a crucial role that saves lives but it’s rarely recognised,’ Rich told the BBC. ‘It’s actually long overdue.’

Rich insists that waste pickers need to be part of the conversation as the UN talks progress: otherwise, he fears, new systems for managing plastics might exclude and sideline them. ‘There’s both a threat and an opportunity here,’ he said. ‘The key thing is to give waste pickers the seat at the table as those systems are designed so they can speak for themselves.’