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CREED Paper #5: The Informal Sector and Waste Paper Recovery in Bombay

Author(s)Pieter van Beukering, Edwin Schoon, Ajit Mani
Serie(s)Creed Working Papers


The lack of raw materials is considered to be one of the main constraints to a comprehensive recycling industry in the South. This paper looks at the possibilities for increasing recyclable waste recovery in developing countries, focusing on Bombay, India. First, a literature study provides a general introduction to the problems of solid waste and recovery in developing cities. Based on field surveys in the informal recovery sector and literature on formal waste collection, a simulation model for the solid waste flows in Bombay is developed. Two policy options under varying degrees of public response are considered: the encouragement of the existing informal recovery sector and the introduction of a Western style recovery system. Extrapolations of four different effects are presented for the period until 2010: formal and informal employment, environmental impact, public expenditure and income distribution. Promoting informal recovery seems to be a more cost-effective and environmentally optimal policy measure: investment requirements are minimal while landfill costs are reduced; employment effects are also positive because of the high labour intensity of informal waste recovery. However, the impact on income distribution is worse than a Western-style policy.


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