Municipal waste, environmental justice, right to the city and the irregular economy: Valuing the work of informal waste pickers in the Catalan recycling sector (2020)

Over the last 50 years, the implementation of municipally-run integrated waste management systems in Europe has led to the professionalization of the sector, leaving little room for the informal recycling sector. However, since the last decade, new social groups have emerged, usually immigrants, who have found in this sector a new way of life. In many Catalan cities, the informal collection of waste is an increasingly present activity, providing economic income to people who cannot work in the formal labor sector, either because of their citizenship status, or due to situations of social exclusion. Though the presence of informal recyclers is noticed through-out Catalonia, there is little understanding, especially in the academic world, of their prevalence, the contributions that their work is making towards environmental goals, and how their work is affecting the formal waste system. Furthermore, though they are performing an environmental benefit to society, they are receiving little to no recognition for the work that they are doing, and it is unclear why. This investigation attempts to answer the question, how is informality valued with regard to the environmental goals of a society?

Author: Michael Thomas Rendon

Supervisor: Josep Lluís Espluga & Joan Miquel Verd

Date of thesis defense: 26/06/2020


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