Mapping the Landscape Waste Pickers in Pakistan Challenges, Opportunities, Organizational Strategies

CPI has also greatly contributed to understanding and supporting the underprivileged waste picking community in Pakistan. In the Mapping of Waste Pickers project, we helped quantify and map waste pickers across several big cities in Pakistan. The project aimed to develop a fundamental understanding of the waste pickers' socio-economic conditions, their contributions to the circular economy in Pakistan, and the challenges they faced. By supporting these unsung heroes, the project provided opportunities for improvement and empowerment in the informal workforce sector, ultimately contributing to a more efficient and sustainable waste management system in Pakistan.

  • Partners: Ouroboros Waste Management Private Limited (PI)
  • Client: Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and organising (WEIGO)
  • Timeline: October 2022 to May 2023





    Role of waste pickers in the circular economy. The informal sector, particularly waste pickers play a critical role in the circular economy low-middle income countries context; retrieving and diverting waste to recycling markets, supply secondary material, reduce landfill and waste-to-energy reliance. As the country experiences economic growth and aligns with global sustainability trends, there’s increasing pressure on essential sectors like solid waste management. However, the lack of comprehensive data on waste pickers poses a significant challenge, potentially leading to non-inclusive or inadequately responsive government and business models.



    Understanding the landscape of waste pickers through the cities. The goal of this project is to map the waste picker landscape in three selected Pakistani cities, including two mega-cities Karachi and Lahore and one secondary city Muridke. The cities were selected based on their geographical spread and representative nature of waste picking practices. This mapping study utilized WIEGO’s classification of waste pickers, which includes street waste pickers, dumpsite/transfer station waste pickers, itinerant buyers, sorters, and municipal workers. However, looking at the Pakistani context, the waste pickers are divided into four broad group. We used stratified sampling to cover all groups i.e., segregated waste stream waste pickers, mix stream waste pickers, employed waste pickers, and self-organized waste pickers. The research aimed to capture insights related to organizational structures, strategies, relations with stakeholders, and interconnections among waste pickers within each category. Furthermore, the study conducted key informant interviews with representatives from organizations, the key informant interviews provided valuable insights into the broader context of waste picker support systems and the existing barriers to their effective implementation.



    Informing Inclusive Policies for Sustainability. This study addresses the gaps presented as key challenge by providing insights into the intricate landscape of waste picking in Pakistan. It aims to offer a nuanced understanding of challenges and opportunities while exploring the organizational intricacies and self-organization strategies employed by waste pickers. The study also highlights coping mechanisms, family involvement, and kinship-based connections shaping the daily lives of waste pickers. This information is crucial for formulating inclusive policies and just transition that consider the unique dynamics of the waste picking sector in Pakistan.

    Shiza Aslam Shiza Aslam Director & Head of Research

    For more information about this project, please get in touch.

    Contact Us