More than 100 participants from over 14 countries took part at the conference on the Integration of the Informal Sector in Solid Waste Management from the 9th till the 10th of November in Berlin
A conference on the Efficient Concepts for Solid Waste Management and Recycling with Integration of the Informal Sector was organized by German RETech Partnership in collaboration with GIZ and with the support of the BMUB’s Export Initiative, and took place on 9 and 10 November, 2017. The conference opened with an introduction by Dr Armin Vogel, Chairman of the RETech board, followed by an intervention by Dr Helge Wendenburg, Directorate-General of the department of Water Management, Resource Conservation at the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, and Mr Dirk Schwenfeier, BMZ-Commissioner for Economy and Communes. The two-day conference was packed with interventions from key speakers involved in the waste management and recycling chain- representatives from the private sector as well as international experts and representatives from German ministries and institutions- and tackled the many issues attributed to the informal sector’s activity relative to Solid Waste Management, such as cooperation with the latter in developing and emerging countries, and the state of this cooperation in selected contexts (the Western Balkan countries, Egypt, South Africa, France, China and Brasil). Speakers also addressed the approaches to the technical design and implementation of primary collection systems for separate collection, as well as the requirements for appropriate frame conditions for a successful integration of the informal sector. A panel discussion was open at the end of the conference to discuss success factors for the integration of the informal sector in the frame of the development of an integrated circular economy.
Feedback from participants
In light of the status quo of the informal sector- being a sustaining mean of living, in emerging countries notably- the conference aimed at exchanging experience and knowledge amongst members from the German waste management and recycling industry, and international experts, about the informal sector’s structure and modes of operation. Speakers shared their extensive experience in the field of international cooperation in developing and emerging countries, and discussed opportunities for the development of innovative and sustainable technologies and concepts, based on existing successful implemented approaches for the integration of the informal sector, in an effort to promote the development of sustainable concepts as well as to contribute towards the preparation of sector-specific strategies for countries with an active informal sector.
In this regard, Dr Helge Wendenburg commented further on how waste management and efficiency could be combined, as well as on how the term waste is differently interpreted in different areas around the world and the need for cooperation to shift the understanding into that waste is a resource. Mr. Dirk Schwenzfeier put into context the dilemma of informal collection, where informal collectors are seen as an impediment when in reality, they are part of the solution. He stressed on the importance of finding new models of cooperation with informal workers within formal guidelines and invited efforts of cooperation with partners to foster projects abroad, within the framework of the BMZ’s support.
Speaking of the extended Producer Responsibility EPR, Ms. Agnes Bunemann, cyclos GmbH, approached the latter’s implementation in Jordan and explained the actual situation of Waste Management, the requirements for sustainable WM, the financing and organization of an EPR system, and the involvement of the informal sector in the latter. On the other hand, Ms. Reka Soos, RWA Group, tackled the structural integration of the informal sector in Romania and Tunisia, and mainly addressed the potential of the integration of the informal sector, while providing case studies in both countries and discussing the drivers of change as well as the institutional arrangements accordingly.
On a different note, Dr Wolfgang Pfaff-Simoneit, KfW, addressed the objectives of an advanced SWM and the suitability of separate collection concepts applied in high wage countries for developing countries. He noted that source segregation is decisive for the development of recycling opportunities and the sustainable utilization of organic waste, and stressed on the need for the inclusion of and cooperation with the informal sector. Ms. Christa Venter, Pickitup Johannesburg Ltd, tackled the South African waste sector, where valuable resources are constantly being lost to overseas markets despite the growth of the recycling industry, and followed by providing insights on means for waste transformation, before tackling the issue of integration of waste pickers through their involvement in the design of WM systems, among other measures.
Always within the framework of cooperation with the informal sector in selected contexts, Prof. Dr. Michael Nelles, Rostock University, provided examples and a case study of the university’s Chinese cooperation partners, before addressing the role of the informal sector in the SWM in China, where he provided facts and figures on the municipal solid waste in the country, the waste composition and treatment facilities in the different areas. He also addressed the required elements of WM systems and the strategy for separate collection of MSW-fractions as well as the formal regulations addressing the informal sector in Beijing. On the other hand, Paulo Do Amaral Boneff, Gerdau Brasilia, gave an overview of the recycling market in Brazil, and addressed the Gerdrau- GIZ cooperation objectives for integrating the informal sector in the steel value chain through multi-stakeholder engagement, as well as proposed solutions and an outlook to getting a greater impact on recycling.
Speakers also provided an overview of innovative collection systems under development. Dr. Lothar Stach, DOSTA Consulting GmbH, explained the technical design of a primary collection system for separate collection, and stressed on the fact that efficient collection and recycling require standardized container systems, an interface between those, underground systems, and collection vehicles, as well as the implementation of other methods necessary for the well functioning of the processes. Mr. Siddharth Hande, Kadabiwalla Connect, explained the framework as well as the journey of Kabadiwalla Connect, which focus is on mapping and quantifying the impact of Kabadiwalla shops, and where research in this regard revealed certain key insights on how to work towards developing a business model to strengthen the economic and operational niches of the informal waste ecosystem.
Finally, Dr Anne Scheinberg, Springloop Cooperatie U.A., discussed the reasons why recycling is a “bad joke” in emerging countries, as well as the aspects of the orientation towards informal recycling. Dr Scheinberg also differentiated between the service and value chain recycling before indulging in the frameworks of the informal integration and outlining the general principles for cooperation with informal recyclers in emerging economies.
The conference closed with a panel discussion which was moderated by Mr. Bernd Sackmann. The discussion primarily outlined the challenges faced by the informal sector and the speakers noted that the cooperation between the formal and informal sectors is not complicated when common objectives are defined and an effort is made towards understanding the dynamics of work within the informal sector.