[Answered] Critically evaluate the potential impact of the Global Plastics Treaty on the informal waste sector. What steps can be taken to ensure a just transition for informal waste collectors and recyclers? (250 words)

Introduction: What is the Global Plastics Treaty?

Body: Highlight the impact of the treaty on the informal waste sector and steps to ensure a just transition

Conclusion: Way forward

The Global Plastics Treaty is an ambitious initiative involving at least 175 United Nations member nations to eliminate the use of plastics. The goal is to finalize a legal document by the end of 2024 with timelines by which countries must agree to curb plastic production, eliminate its uses that create wastage, ban certain chemicals used in its production, and set targets for recycling.

Impact on the Informal Waste Sector

  • Formalization and Recognition: The treaty’s focus on “just transition” could lead to the formalization of the informal waste sector. This would provide workers with social security, better working conditions, and potentially higher incomes.
  • Increased Demand for Recycled Plastics: The treaty’s focus on plastic reduction and recycling could lead to a rise in demand for recycled materials. This could benefit informal waste collectors by increasing the value of the plastics they collect.
  • Loss of Livelihoods: Stricter regulations on waste collection and recycling could lead to increased competition from formal waste management companies. This might threaten the livelihoods of some informal waste collectors, particularly those who struggle to adapt to new regulations.
  • Focus on Automation: Investments in waste management infrastructure might favor automated sorting systems. While these could improve efficiency, they could also displace some informal waste collectors who rely on manual sorting.

Ensuring a Just Transition for Informal Waste Workers

  • Stakeholder Engagement: Informal waste workers’ organizations should be actively involved in discussions and decisions around the implementation of the treaty. Their knowledge and expertise are crucial for designing policies that address their specific needs.
  • Skill Development Programs: Training programs can equip informal waste collectors with the skills needed to adapt to new technologies and regulations, such as operating sorting machines or managing waste collection centers.
  • Social Protection Schemes: Social safety nets can provide a cushion for informal waste collectors who might lose their livelihoods due to stricter regulations or automation.
  • Focus on Inclusion: The design of new waste management systems should prioritize the inclusion of informal waste collectors by integrating them into formal collection routes or providing them with designated collection points.

Conclusion

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, of the 9% recycled plastic, 85% was done by informal recycling workers. As a key member of Global South, India should raise concerns about informal waste pickers and promote an approach that enhances repair, reuse, refill, and recycling without necessarily eliminating the use of plastics.

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