Pablo Navarrete-Hernández

Rethinking waste-picking: The role of municipal policy in improving scavengers’ sustainability

Policies towards the urban economy, in general, and towards scavengers, in particular, are based in four approaches: (1) dualists propose repressive policies against scavengers’ activities as they look at them as a means of poverty preservation and slowing of economic growth; (2) structuralists address weak sup- porting policies, reinforcing scavengers association and better negotiation power to avoid capitalist exploitation; (3) neoliberals promote scavenging activities through legalization and free-markets without government intervention; and, (4) co-production arrangements propose a strong local support as a means to enhance scavengers’ productivity. Qualitative-quantitative research on the impact of different policy approaches on scavengers’ sustainable performance is scarce. This paper tries to fill this gap in the literature evaluating the veracity of competing theoretical characterizations and policy approaches. The empirical results suggest a positive association between levels of local government support and scavengers’ sustainable performance on economic growth, social equity, environmental protection and reduction of negative externalities of the activity.

Keywords: local development; informal economy; local recycling; waste pickers