Workers who handle waste and recyclables support the health of our communities, economies, and the environment at the expense of their own health and wellbeing. On a daily basis, they may be exposed to hazardous materials, such as household cleaners, pesticides, and medical waste. The COVID-19 pandemic only heightens these health risks, particularly to informal waste pickers who collect the recyclable materials that we throw in the trash.
The environmental benefits of the large-scale recycling industry are significant — landfill waste is reduced, pollution is minimized, greenhouse gases are reduced, and natural resources are preserved, among others. In many locations, the recycling sector is rapidly expanding as companies, governments, and NGOs recognize the critical impact recycling can make. However, what is often hidden in these efforts are the abusive and often hazardous conditions under which material is collected for reuse.
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