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Inclusive approach for socioeconomic empowerment of informal waste and sanitation workers

Practical Action has been working in the waste and sanitation sector for more than two decades. We have demonstrated technologies for safe management of municipal kitchen & solid waste and faecal sludge in different secondary towns. Bringing informal workers together and providing technical and entrepreneurship skills, we helped them develop business cooperative, create linkages to fiancial & Govt. agencies and large companies. Faridpur, one of such cities, has become a model town for sustainable and inclusive waste management. The rights of the workers have been secured through building their capacity in terms of service management with modern technologies, ensuring safety at workplace and bridging relation with local authorities. Some of the waste collectors and pit-emptiers have turned into successful green entrepreneurs and formed business cooperative to sustain and expand their ventures. Now they enjoy dignity for their contribution to the society.

Thousands of people are involved in solid wastes, pit emptying, inorganic waste trading and recycling business. Collection, transportation, separation, storage, transfer, treatment, and disposal are the key steps involved. Inorganic waste recycling, particularly plastic and packaging business, are rapidly growing and a huge number of workers (hawkers and pickers), and small & medium entrepreneurs (vangariwala) are formally and informally involved in collection, gradation, compaction, storage, transport, cleaning, processing and production of finished products. Safely managed waste and sanitation services have been highlighted in SDG 6 and 11. Urban Local Authorities (LA), municipalities and city corporations, are rapidly expanding and contributing to GDP of the country. One of the major duty of these LAs is to make cities clean and healthy but they have institutional governance and capacity constraints in planning, designing, mobilising resources and partnering with private sector for delivering integrated, improve and equitable services to all city dwellers including slum dwellers and low income communities. Practical Action with Rockefeller Foundation conducted a study on informal waste and sanitation workers in 2015, which showed that they use traditional skill inherited and usually do not have access to technology, finance and other business development support services.. They work manually without protection, remain underpaid with irregular wages, have no formal recognition and lack professional security, facing disgrace and harassment by the communities, employers and law enforcement agencies. Despite the National Labour Policy 2012, the rights of informal waste and sanitation workers are yet to be realised.

Waste collector and sweepers (both public and private)

They are paid sub-standard wages (BDT 130-150 per day for females and BDT 250-300 per day for males) and lack occupational health and safety. Most of the sweepers are female and often face harassments since they need to work at dark.

Waste pickers

(collect inorganic waste from dustbins and dumping sites)

Most of them are under aged, illiterate and frequently face contempt by communities and harassment by law enforcement agencies. They hardly have any recognition for their contribution, and are exploited extremely by the traders. They are exposed to different health hazards and are very ill-paid, considering their long working hours. They earn around BDT 80-200 per day. Technical knowledge, education and resources are big constraints to get fair a price for their products.

Inorganic waste traders

(Bhangariwala, trading plastic, metal, paper waste, etc.)

There are two major types of inorganic waste traderssmall traders (handle 10,000 to 300,000 BDT) and medium traders (handle more than 300,000 BDT) in Municipalities and cities. Most traders do not have trade licence and adequate storage capacity. They receive poor cooperation from the municipalities. There is no loan facility tailored to the needs of this business cycle. They lack knowledge, skills on appropriate technology, safety measures, market intelligence and linkages. They hardy have any association or platform to raise their voice for their rights. Moreover, They often face harassment by law enforcement agencies.

Pit-emptiers They empty septic tanks and pits manually using traditional equipments without any protection at midnight. Lack of proper technologies, safety equipments and inhaling gases create health hazards and they face accidents and injuries frequently. Their work schedules are very uncertain, so is their income. They never get paid enough to meet anything beyond their core needs. Education and medical facilities are very hard to receive. Participating in social events are beyond their imagination as they are extremely excluded.

To dignify the lives of thousands of waste and sanitation workers, Practical Action, Karmojibi Nari and Municipal Association of Bangladesh are implementing a three-year long project in three municipalities and one city corporation titled, “Dignifying Lives: Inclusive approach for socioeconomic empowerment of informal waste and sanitation workers” funded by the European Union. The project aims to establish inclusive waste management model in the targeted area for sustainable environment and securing their rights.

Objective Contribute to participatory inclusive urban governance in which informal waste and sanitation workers are socially and economically empowered for delivering equitable and integrated services. The project will focus on strengthening the capacity of municipality, recycling enterprise, civil society organisation for facilitating the realisation of labour rights of informal waste and sanitation workers for decent working environment, living wages and social inclusion.

N working area

Duration 01 January 2018 – 31 December 2020

Working Areas Barguna Municipality, Bagerhat Municipality, Faridpur Municipality, Gazipur City Corporation Bay of Bengal

Realisation of decent working conditions by waste & sanitation workers

Inclusive waste & sanitation planning, budgeting and informal worker led business modeling by municipalities

Target Groups Enhanced CSR by recycling companies & their supply chain contributing to relevant policies


informal waste and sanitation workers


waste trading wholesalers, retailers, and their business associations

Common voice of civil society for socioeconomic rights of informal workers and scaling up of inclusive business models


waste recycling companies


business cooperatives by the workers


low-income urban community organisations and civil society organisations


City-dwellers will have increased access to effective, efficient waste and sanitation service

Expected Results The project will develop capacities, demonstrate, institutionalize and advocate for processes which create better relationships among municipalities, recycling companies, informal sanitation worker cooperatives, and local civil society organisations. It will foster good models of innovative participatory municipal governance, CSR powered social schemes which empower socially and economically excluded informal and sanitation workers to organise themselves. The project will implement inclusive sanitation and waste management models also ensuring financial sustainability, social welfare and health and safety standards of the workers. Studies and evidence generated under the project would be shared nationally to contribute to 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) strategy for waste management, FSM Institutional and Regulatory Framework, as well as National Labour Policy for ensuring the rights of waste and sanitation workers. The major outcomes of the project will be: Increased knowledge, skill and capacity of 36 organisations of waste and sanitation workers to organise and negotiate with municipalities, public and private stakeholders for realisation of decent working conditions. Increased capacity for informal waste and sanitation worker led inclusive sanitation and waste management planning, innovative business modelling, budgeting and facilitation of strategic partnerships, by municipalities together with key stakeholders representing low income groups and sanitation and waste workers. Business Association of Waste Recycling Companies and their supply chain would be sensitised and capacitated to introduce, scale-up CSR and contribute to policies for realising the social, economic rights of informal waste and sanitation workers. Informal workers would be empowered to work with various local, national and international civil society platforms to generate, share and advocate evidence for ensuring social and economic rights of the informal workers and scale up inclusive models.



H-28/A, R-5, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1205 T: +880 2 9672683, 9675236, 9675243 F: +880 2 9674340

inclusive approach for

socioeconomic empowerment

of informal

waste and sanitation


Profile for Practical Action Bangladesh

Dignifying Lives  

To dignify the lives of thousands of waste and sanitation workers, Practical Action, Karmojibi Nari and Municipal Association of Bangladesh...

Dignifying Lives  

To dignify the lives of thousands of waste and sanitation workers, Practical Action, Karmojibi Nari and Municipal Association of Bangladesh...