What do we know about the informal sector in Libya?
UNDP Accelerator Lab initiative of solid waste management discovered that the informal recycling sector neglects necessary occupational health and safety measures, which further contributes to increased levels of environmental pollution activities such as the recovery of recyclables from electrical and electronic equipment. When establishing regulated waste management structures, it is necessary to consider the respective local conditions and involve the informal sector to create acceptance for a changed waste management system. Additionally, their integration into the formal waste sector could positively contribute towards an efficient economic system.
Every day, the Greater Tripoli produces nearly 2,737 tons of waste, containing up to 24% materials that could have been recycled. Although a large amount of waste is collected by people who make a living from selling those recyclable materials, the sector lacks a legal framework, and it is unseen and disorganised. Despite the significant contribution the collectors make to the Libyan recycling sector, they mostly work without regulated contractual relations, without social, health insurance and in very precarious conditions. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they work at a high hazard without any precursory measure.
From around the globe, there are already a few examples of how a structural integration of the informal waste sector into municipal waste management leads to better work conditions of the "waste pickers." Furthermore, it also keeps the urban environment free from materials which could enter the ecosystem and create an unsafe environment for everyone. Those highly sought-after materials can be found in electrical goods, they can be isolated from the street rubbish and sold to relevant buyers.
These goods ending in the landfill pose a loss in the economy and could create havoc in the delicate eco-balance.
The current informal recycling system goes through three main stages:
Stage one: Households dump their waste into the municipal collection points where the Public Service Company (public-owned) staff manages the site. During this phase, as the people dump their waste, the public service company's team segregate the waste. Afterwards the segregated materials are sold to the recyclable shops in an informal way.
Stage two: As Public Service Company delivers the waste into the landfill, random people and recyclable shops go to the landfill and collect plastic, paper, and glass as an informal activity.
Stage three: After cleaning and shredding, and within the informal sector, the recyclable shops sell the materials to private companies such as metal and plastic to ship abroad and sell the cardboard to reproduce products used in Libya.