Fiji is the first Pacific nation to officially recognize waste pickers as the “Collection Pillars of Recycling”, marking them as environmental champions whose work has had a positive impact on the country’s fight against climate change and pollution.
These workers – mainly women, children, and migrants – extract matter from landfills that they repurpose, resell, and recycle for a living.
“Your roles complement the global measures taken towards climate adaptation and mitigation,” says Fiji’s Department of Environment Director, Sandeep Singh.
In the East Asian and Pacific regions, some 468 million metric tons of municipal solid waste is generated each year. Of that quantity, 50% end up in landfills, 24% are incinerated, and only 9% are recycled. And in low-income nations, waste pickers – or Collection Pillars of Recycling – remove millions of tons of carbon dioxide year in and year out, often at the expense of their safety, health, and employee rights. According to the World Bank Group, when waste and recycling sectors are “properly supported and organized,” it is possible to create employment and reduce poverty and municipal spending on solid waste management and social services.