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Surviving from garbage: the role of informal waste-pickers in a dynamic model of solid-waste management in developing countries



In developing countries, informal waste-pickers (known as scavengers) play an important role in solid waste management systems, acting in a parallel way to formal waste collection and disposal agents. Scavengers collect, from the streets, dumpsites, or landfills, re-usable and recyclable material that can be reincorporated into the economy's production process. Despite the benefits that they generate to society, waste-pickers are ignored when waste management policies are formulated. The purpose of this paper is to integrate the role of scavengers in a dynamic model of production, consumption, and recovery, and to show that, in an economy producing solid waste, efficiency can be reached using a set of specific and complementary policies: a tax on virgin materials use, a tax on consumption and disposal, and a subsidy to the recovery of material. A numerical simulation is performed to evaluate the impact of these policies on landfill lifetime and natural resource stocks. A discussion on the implementation of these instruments is also included.



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The authors are especially grateful to Darrell Hueth, who has accompanied and supported this study since its beginning. We also thank Ian Sheldon, and the EDE anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and helpful comments.


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Environment and Development Economics
  • ISSN: 1355-770X
  • EISSN: 1469-4395
  • URL: /core/journals/environment-and-development-economics
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