Tackling informality in e-waste management: The potential of cooperative enterprises
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Electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) is currently the fastest growing waste stream, and it is hazardous, complex and costly to treat. Adequate e-waste recycling can contribute to an environmentally sustainable economy, but that requires immediate improvements in job quality and incomes. Most of the world’s e-waste ends up in developing countries to be treated by informal workers. These workers are vulnerable to the health and environmental risks of e-waste, have little power to negotiate their working conditions and end up recovering a fraction of the recyclable material while contaminating themselves and the poor communities where informal e-waste recycling takes place. Therefore, improving occupational safety and health, upgrading skills, increasing workers’ incomes to fair and decent levels, and promoting the formalization of informal workers in this sector – along with other decent work strategies – is needed to promote sustainable development and better jobs in this growing sector. As a follow up to the working paper The global impact of e-waste: Addressing the challenge, this paper provides further insight on the e-waste sector, focusing on labour challenges and opportunities to leverage working conditions through the promotion of cooperatives and other social and solidarity economy organizations.