Pegels, Anna Heyer, Stefanie Ohlig, David Kurz, Felix Laux, Lena Morley, Prescott
Discussion Paper No. 23/2020
Due to the prevailing economic crisis, Argentina has been facing a growing number of informal workers, many of them urban recyclers. Following the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated decline in formal employment, this number can be expected to rise even further. Increased recycling activity is, in principle, a positive development. However, the working conditions of urban recyclers often do not correspond to the ILO definition of 'decent work'. It is therefore important to ask how the recycling system in Argentina can be shaped to be socially sustainable, as well as environmentally and economically sustainable. Based on qualitative stakeholder interviews, our research aimed to collect and synthesise the ideas and expectations of a diverse set of actors in the recycling sector of Buenos Aires City and selected municipalities of Buenos Aires Province. This enabled us to identify four key areas of dispute and potential action. First, work in urban recycling is a form of social safety net in Argentina, as in many countries with persistent poverty. This can lead to a trade-off between maintaining the social function of the sector and subjecting it to the kinds of efficiency requirements placed on other sectors. Given the inherent power asymmetries between large companies and individual urban recyclers, the latter may be crowded out once the sector becomes profitable.
waste management urban recycling cartoneros sustainability Argentina