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Scavenging in Port-au-Prince, Ouest, Haiti

Scavenging In Port-au-Prince, Ouest, Haiti

The rapid urbanization greatly increased the demand for informal waste collecting services, as cities lacked the infrastructure and resources to collect the totality of wastes generated by their inhabitants. Despite spending 30–50% of operation budgets on waste management, developing world cities today collect only 50–80% of refuse generated by inhabitants. Residents and businesses often resort to burning garbage or disposing of it streets, rivers, vacant lots, and open dumps. This is a source of air, land, and water pollution that threatens human health and the environment. Informal waste collectors help mitigate this harm by collecting recyclable materials by foot or in pushcarts, tricycles, donkey carts, horse carts, and pickup trucks.
On the supply side, urbanization has facilitated the expansion of waste picking by creating a large pool of unemployed and underemployed residents with few alternative means of earning a livelihood. Known as “the one industry that is always hiring,” waste picking provides a cushion for many who lose their jobs during times of war, crisis, and economic downturn in countries that do not have welfare systems. It is also one of the few work opportunities available to people who lack formal education or job experience.
• In post-industrial countries
Though documentation exists of rag pickers and scrap metal collectors supplying goods to paper mills and foundries as early as the 17th century, modern waste picking did not flourish in the US and Europe until the 19th century. Just as in the developing world, the combination of industrialization and urbanization led to three trends which favored the blossoming of the informal waste collecting industry: increased generation of urban waste, increased demand for raw materials from industry, and increased numbers of urban dwellers in need of livelihoods. In that era, waste pickers were known as wharf rats, tinkers, rag and bone men, mudlarks, and ragpickers. By the mid-20th century waste picking decreased, as waste management industries were formalized, and welfare states decreased the poor’s reliance on informal recycling.

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