Management of recyclable waste in Pune, India follows a hybrid model involving informal workers and is widely considered a success story in this sector. One important factor in understanding this achievement is the city’s history of informal workers’ rights movements and civil society participation. This case study retraces plastic waste streams in the city of Pune, identifies contributions by informal economy workers to the recovery, sorting and recycling of plastic waste and provides policy insights that aim to harness the environmental benefits of a more inclusive and productive waste management model.
The experience of the Pune municipal solid waste management model shows that informal waste workers are active and effective in recovering and valorising resources and that this kind of municipality and waste picker partnership can have positive economic, social and environmental impacts. This model is largely workforce based and undertakes recycling activities at a much lower cost than conventional or formal mechanized and centralized waste management approaches. It can also achieve a relatively significant plastic waste segregation and high recycling levels. It directly contributes to a more circular urban waste management model by recovering valuable materials (including plastic) for local and global recycling industries.
This case study was produced under the Closing the Loop initiative of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The initiative is gathering evidence in cities in the Asia-Pacific region in search of opportunities to return plastic resources to the production cycle by linking informal and formal waste processes. The case studies in Pune (India) and Sai Mai District, Bangkok (Thailand) were produced in close partnership with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Asia Centre and Kashtakari Panchayat – the local partner of Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) in Pune.