Empowering waste pickers to create an alternative urban waste management system
The area of Tema New Town in Ghana has no organized waste collection due to inhabitants’ inability to pay. Therefore, waste is dumped along the coastal line or burned. Environment360 founded a Pick-it sorting centre in Tema New Town to improve livelihoods of waste pickers and support an alternative waste collection system that supports Ghana’s Nationally Determined Contributions. The IKI Small Grants project strengthens the capacity of more than 300 waste pickers in Tema New Town and surrounding areas to scale their businesses and independently operate at the Pick-It facility. This action increases the overall volume of recycled plastic, to reduce plastic that is illegally disposed or burned.
Tema New Town is a densely populated coastal town with an estimated population of around 160,000 inhabitants. A survey done in 2017 revealed the average resident was earning 300 GHC (47 euros) per month. The area has no organized waste collection, as private companies have cited residents’ inability to pay for waste disposal services. As a result, residents either contract informal small, motorized tricycles to collect their waste, indiscriminately dump their waste along the coastal line or burn their waste. Waste that ends up in landfill is often not separated, rendering valuable materials such as plastics unrecyclable. The NGO Environment360 founded a Pick-It sorting centre in Tema New Town to enable waste pickers in the region to collect and recycle plastic waste.
The IKI Small Grants project targets 30 waste-picker-leaders with direct training and support. Afterwards, the leaders train another 300 waste pickers and act as multiplicators. This results in an estimated amount of 5,000 residents who have access to improved collection services through Pick-It Waste pickers.
A survey among waste pickers showed that waste pickers are often female and their age ranges from 20 to 70 with 50 per cent being between 20 and 30 years.
APPROACH AND ACTIVITIES
The IKI Small Grants project strengthens the capacity of waste pickers in the Tema New Town area. The project helps them to operate at the Pick-It Sorting Centre independently. To support increased incomes Pick-It Sorting Centre provides technology (e.g. flaker), business and capacity training, as well as a variety of value added social services that support sustainable growth for waste picker groups.
The project enhances the business and financial knowledge of more than 300 waste collectors to support the development of cooperative business models for municipal collection systems for plastics. Once established, the new business can increase the local recycling rates, reduce the waste incineration and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.
Environment360 uses a Training of Trainers format to improve waste picker leaders’ ability to grow their plastic collection businesses. They organise group discussions to co-design a business capacity training. These trainings include content on how to improve business capacity, enhance leadership skills, digital financial literacy, and planning skills. Other trainings focus on the development of operational and safety rules as well as practical skills to use the operate the flaker. The flaker transforms the collected plastics into flakes which achieve a higher selling price and thus increase the waste pickers’ income.
The project develops and tests a sustainable business model through the identification of waste pickers’ priorities and the implementation of various actions agreed upon by the groups. Measures planned by Environment360 include the construction of separate plastic separation rooms for groups, provision of personal protective equipment and the registration with the national health insurance.
Environment360 collects data throughout the project to assess the impact of additional services (provision of personal protective gear, storage space, health insurance, seating, shaded sorting area, refreshments, transportation) on waste pickers behaviour at the Pick-It sorting centre. The organisation identifies key stakeholders along the plastic value chain and local government and invites them to review the case study and validate lessons. It also requests feedback on how these lessons can be scaled up to support the formalisation of waste pickers.
IKI Small Grants supports Environment360 in their organisational capacity development through:
- Training on grant writing
- Training on monitoring and evaluation
- General trainings on time management, negotiation, conflict, leadership, and report writing