The Invisible Face of Waste Collection

As the title hints at, the project aimed at revealing the living and working conditions of ‘street collectors’ – a name we preferred to use instead of the typical ‘scavenger’, not only to denote the specific nature of their work, but also as a means to leave aside the stereotypes surrounding it.
Street collectors earn a living by collecting recyclable materials (plastic, glass, metals, paper) from public bins and selling them to depots. The latter, then, act as mediators between individual collectors and factories which buy these materials as inputs. This process remains unrecorded until the recyclable materials are bought by factories. It is therefore very hard to calculate the total profit generated as such or collectors’ exact contribution to recycling. Neither it is possible to estimate accurately the number of people working in this sector. Moreover, the field is marked by an internal diversity that we observed in the composition of collectors across different cities/neighbourhoods. This work aims to shed light on this invisible face of waste collection, emphasising collectors’ contribution to the economy and the protection of natural resources as much as the difficulty of their situation.