Garbage separation: a livelihood option for poor men and women

April 22, 2016

Poverty and social disadvantage provide fertile ground for the proliferation of informal occupations that yield barely subsistence-level incomes. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, garbage separation is a relatively old informal occupation, dating back 30 or 40 years.

A growing number of “garbage separators” collect, select, and sell “recyclable materials” at different points of the solid-waste management process. They perform this work at the K’ara K’ara municipal garbage dump, in the many containers distributed throughout the urban centre, and along the route taken by the municipal garbage pick-up trucks. Some even go door-to-door picking out materials from household trash.

The research, led by the Sociedad de Gestión Ambiental Boliviana, aims to understand the living conditions and social and economic characteristics of garbage separators around the Kjara-Kjara garbage dump and in the centre of Cochabamba. Researchers surveyed a representative sample of garbage separators to better understand their situation and identify factors that make these communities vulnerable. This “data brief” highlights the survey's major findings. 

Download the PDF of this data brief 

Available in Spanish

Visit the project website (in Spanish)

The Focus City Research Initiative (FCRI) is a series of eight action research projects funded by the Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC). In the “Focus Cities” approach, multistakeholder city teams worked in partnership over four years, to research and test innovative solutions to alleviate poverty. The participating researchers worked in the following cities: Lima (Peru), Cochabamba (Bolivia), Moreno (Argentina), La Soukra (Tunisia), Dakar (Senegal), Kampala (Uganda), Colombo (Sri Lanka), and Jakarta (Indonesia).