Understanding the waste pickers of Catalonia: contributions and deficits of an informal economy

In Catalonia, we can distinguish a formal waste management sector, managed mostly by municipalities and other public administrations, while simultaneously observing a parallel informal waste management sector of “Waste Pickers,” acting both within and outside the formal sector.
The primary hypothesis of this work is that the informal sector is contributing and improving public policy goals regarding waste diversion and material recovery, while at the same time receiving no recognition for their labor and bearing numerous inequities and injustices. In this sense, the objective of the study is to identify the contributions and deficits of the informal waste sector towards the general waste system through an environmental justice lens.
Phase one of this project includes a case-study with informal recyclers in the city of Granollers (Catalonia), which includes questionnaires, in-depth interviews, observational participation, and analysis. Phase two branches out to the rest of Catalonia with extensive interviews and analysis to determine the waste pickers’ overall impacts and contributions to the formal waste management sector.

Start date: 25/09/2018
Finish date: 28/09/2019
Financing: ECOEMBES
Reference: 16881
Principal investigator: Josep Espluga
Team: Michael Rendon, Julián Porras, Astou Toure


Rendon, Michael; Espluga-Trenc, Josep & Verd, Joan Miquel (2021). Assessing the functional relationship between the formal and informal waste systems: A case-study in Catalonia (Spain). Waste Management, 131, 483–490. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2021.07.006

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