Towards integration of waste pickers into quality-oriented plastics recycling
Sprache des Vortragstitels:
20th European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production
Sprache des Tagungstitel:
In countries of the so-called Global South, waste management and recycling are typically performed by the informal sector. Waste pickers and other informal workers make up the foundation of informal recycling values chains, in particular for post-consumer plastics. Harsh working conditions and social marginalization of the workers go hand in hand with inadequate material handling and low quality material output. The piece of work we are reporting herein is based on an ongoing research partnership with a company located in Nairobi, Kenya that claims to have put in place a specifically developed business model that sustainably integrates local waste pickers into a quality-oriented plastics recycling value chain. Eight different types of recycled plastics (recyclates) derived from waste picking were obtained for analysis from this company. Typical materials characterization methods such as infrared spectroscopic, differential scanning calorimetry and thermo-gravimetric analysis were employed to elucidate their composition. Mechanical testing was used to investigate relevant engineering properties of these materials. A complementary in-depth analysis of typical contaminations and defects present in these recyclates by microscopic techniques was carried out. The insights gained from materials characterization work were linked to the respective feedstock composition of each material type that was made available for this work. It could be shown, that the same input-output quality relations apply that are known from formal plastics recycling. As long as educated manual sorting is combined with state-of-the-art processing technology the quality of plastics recycling output materials does not depend on whether it originates from a formal or an informal context. Integrating existing informal elements of waste management into a quality-oriented recycling value chain in a Global South setting seems a feasible first step towards a socially-inclusive circular plastics economy.