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Bringing all Stakeholders to the Table

Ineffective waste management is one of the Asia-Pacific region’s most pressing challenges with creating a circular economy, resulting in leakages of waste into our natural environment. Informal waste workers are key players in closing gaps by recovering valuable materials and diverting waste back into the economy primarily via recycling markets. Most are living with inconsistent earnings, little protection under labour laws, and face threats to their livelihoods. The transition to a circular economy will be equitable and sustainable only with a detailed understanding of the livelihoods of waste workers, and the identification of pathways to secure decent and humane work by empowering marginalised populations in a green transition. 

Incorporating waste workers today will empower them as dignified workers tomorrow. Inadequate environmental resource management disproportionately impacts the poor and all future generations, including in vulnerable communities where most informal waste workers live. Youth activists around the world have risen as ambassadors of future generations, vulnerable groups, and environmental challenges of today. It is imperative to bring together active and passionate youth activists and ‘waste heroes’ working in the shadows of society to empathise together and ideate on how to meaningfully solve these challenges. Social Business can be mainstreamed into the circular economy and waste management systems, offering inclusive entrepreneurial solutions to bottlenecks and in-access problems as well as bridging the existing support gaps provided by public and civil society actors.

The Waste Hero Alliance Policy Dialogue Series

The “Waste  Hero  Alliance” is a multi-phase event connecting informal waste workers and youth in Bangladesh, Lao PDR, Philippines, and Thailand that engages other participants with stakeholders of interest in solid waste management and crosscutting related subjects. 

The dialogue focused on five impact areas related to the livelihoods of informal waste workers, which resulted in five key policy recommendations along with implementation ideas and spotlight stories of existing initiatives that can help guide decision-and-policy-makers in government, private sector, and civil society looking to contribute to a shared vision of an inclusive circular economy with empowered workers. 

Although there is no universal pathway to integrate informal waste workers into solid waste management systems, doing so is a meaningful pursuit towards eliminating poverty and ensuring sustainable development. As a result of the policy dialogue event series, youth activists identified five key visions contributing to the inclusion and empowerment of informal workers in solid waste management in the transition to a circular economy future.

Forming the Basis for Action

Through the dialogue, a multi-stakeholder Waste Hero Alliance has been formed to work towards a brighter, more inclusive, and greener future through both closing the loop and ensuring that no one is left behind. The Waste Hero Alliance Policy Report shines light on the biggest needs and gaps identified by all stakeholders, particularly informal waste workers and youth activists. The report further identifies entry points for strategic interventions and the roles key stakeholders can play in driving this inclusive and circular transformation, including areas where social entrepreneurship solutions can be leveraged to close gaps. Both the alliance and the report form the basis for meaningful action to be taken and serve as the first steps in driving change.  

Read the Waste Hero Alliance

Youth visions for the inclusion and empowerment of informal waste workers in Asian circular cities here

Key Challenges faced by informal waste workers

  • The Value Chain
  • Healthy, Safety, and Security
  • Equity, Inclusion and Dignity
  • Wages and Economic Conditions
  • Work Efficiency and Conditions

Contact person: Johnathan Brenes (Circular Economy Policy Lead), email: