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Unleashing waste-pickers potential: supporting recycling cooperatives in Santiago de Chile

Pablo Navarrete-Hernández and Nicolas Navarrete-Hernandez

LSE Research Online Documents on Economics from London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library

Abstract: The informal economy currently provides two out of three jobs worldwide, with waste-picking activities providing employment for millions of the poorest of society. Moreover, waste-picking could provide a sustainable solution for solving the waste management crisis that affects the 3 billion people lacking access to waste services. Governmental policies toward waste-pickers in particular, and the informal economy in general, have been fundamentally based on four policy approaches: (1) dualist and voluntarist, which proposes repressive policies against waste-picker activity and the expansion of formal solid waste management systems; (2) structuralist, which argues for weak supporting policies aimed at reinforcing waste-picker associations; (3) legalist, which promotes the competition of waste-picking with other recycling alternatives without government intervention; and (4) co-production, which supports waste-picking with local policies as a means of enhancing waste-pickers’ productivity. Both qualitative, and particularly quantitative evidence testing the impact of these four approaches is scarce. In this paper, we attempt to fill this gap in the literature by operationalizing concepts, building a waste-picker sustainable performance index, and estimating the impacts of these four competing policy approaches. An exploratory sequential design method is used to analyze data: first, a thematic analysis to examine 40 in-depth interviews, and then multiple linear regressions to analyze a census survey of 100 waste-pickers in four cooperatives in Santiago de Chile. Our empirical results suggest a positive association between the level of government support and waste-pickers’ sustainable performance. Consequently, further positive government intervention, particularly in supporting a stronger structural organization for the waste-picker recycling system, is advocated as the primary policy recommendation of this paper.

Keywords: waste pickers; co-production; Santiago; recycling waste; management; informal economy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J01 R14 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018-01-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-env, nep-hme and nep-iue
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Published in World Development, 1, January, 2018, 101, pp. 293-310. ISSN: 0305-750X

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