Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) members in India working in waste collection and recycling in the informal economy are saving the environment and driving just transitions.

Women workers working in the informal economy collect the waste from the dumping yards (waste landfills), sort it and supply it to the collection center for recycling. They strive to recycle paper packaging, PET bottles, glass and plastic packaging, an important part of reducing waste and mitigating the environmental damage caused by pollution.

Women workers sorting waste in the collection center for recycling.

SEWA has set up collection centers where members carefully sort and classify waste for recycling. This brings into recycling a massive volume of discarded plastic and paper that escapes the limited capacity and reach for the formal economy.

The work done by women engaged in waste picking and in collection centers for recycling is a vital contribution to efforts to save the environment and reduce pollution. While governments and international agencies allocate significant resources for “green job” creation in the future, the fact is that these women workers are already engaged in  “green jobs” in the informal economy. This is also an essential part of just transitions.

Despite this, very few green economy or just transition policies, programs and strategies include workers in the informal economy.

Women working in the the green informal economy must receive greater recognition of their essential work. This recognition of their vital role also means that they deserve better wages and incomes commensurate to the value of their work, and have access to social security, health insurance and benefits as workers.

Women workers at a waste dump site collecting waste for recycling

Women workers sorting waste in the collection center for recycling

Women workers at collection centers for recycling