Technology can add value to waste management in terms of accuracy and efficiency.
Waste pickers rank last in the waste collection, sorting and separation category. They lack social security and are mostly unbanked. Over 15 million people make a living from the informal sector, which is critical to the waste management space. “Building trust and taking a collaborative approach to waste collection is essential. Technology is the catalyst. For example, the mobile app can be used to monitor waste collection in smart bins. Alerts, with real-time updates, will speed up the process. The fact that these workers can use mobile technology for their work itself can be a factor in the calculation,” said Sandeep Patel, CEO, and NEPRA, during the CII webinar on waste management through social inclusion.
The technology can be leveraged to detect the precise amount of waste generated. What is often done manually in the form of rough calibration could happen through technological tools. Robots could help with the process of sorting or separating waste. Artificial intelligence (AI), advanced cameras, sensors and robotics can sort plastic waste. Where possible, automation can be used to measure and measure the volume of plastic waste collected.
With technological interventions, the value chain of waste picker business can likely move up. This could bring a significant change in the system; this can improve the rate at which waste is collected and sorted. But that brings us to another question: whether collectors are skilled enough to track app-based activities and whether they can use them effectively. It’s not a bad idea if this community uses vernaculars to publicize their work online. It might not be easy, but thanks to getting started, it could probably come close.
Technology can be leveraged to make processes visible, consistent and efficient. Trucks or fleet services equipped with GPS can probably help public waste management companies track the vehicle (like vehicles are tracked in the logistics industry).
In addition to the digital transformation of the waste sector, waste pickers themselves can add value to the process. As Pashas Band, Director of Organic Recycling, put it, “Waste pickers know waste collection and understand how waste is collected and sorted. It is likely that many of them will be able to sort the waste and become the suppliers of the recycling units; or even start recycling units. “It could also be an opportunity for them to learn about e-invoicing and e-operations. Now this is something that could be continued.
Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR can support the informal sector. In this sense, it is an important opportunity to build a holistic value chain, which could contribute to the circular economy. Whatever income he earns could be passed on to waste pickers to improve their living conditions. And this is something that many companies follow. Take the case of Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd, whose presence in Mumbai is in mixed use development (MUD) premises. “We assessed the issue of waste management on our campus. It was then that we realized that approximately 10 tons of waste is generated by the campus almost every day. The company decided to hire waste pickers, around 40 to 45 of them to collect the waste, differentiate it and pass it on to recyclers, with the waste pickers being compensated for their efforts,” added Tejashree Joshi, Deputy Managing Director for Environment and Sustainability at Godrej & Boyce.
Recycling applications can also be integrated into the system. The whole waste collection process needs to be institutionalized, and this has happened by integrating waste pickers with waste collection managers. EPR was introduced to create some value for the collector’s efforts. It would be great if EPR were extended to all states and union territories and linked to waste pickers. The economic value of waste must be communicated to as many people as possible through campaigns, social media and awareness programs.
Fair wages are essential for all as much as health, access to sanitation and safety. “Waste pickers are a vulnerable part of society. Our vision is to create a better life for them through sustainable measures. Sustainability can be understood as gender equality, inclusiveness and job opportunities for all. Many waste pickers obtain bank accounts, as financial inclusion of the low-income group is essential. As an organization, we encourage women’s empowerment and bring them to the mainstream,” observed IKEA Development Center Manager Shagufta Nahid. From a gender perspective, women are marginalized in the waste picker segment. They must express themselves and assert their position in the waste collection process. Emancipation could be the way forward.
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