Report of the meeting in the field of garbage collecting and waste managment

Somewhere in our independent activities, we came together to solve a problem we saw in the vicious cycle of garbage collection so that we might be able to work together more effectively. We both concluded that the activists in this issue are unaware of each other, and there is no platform for dialogue between them. So we decided to create a space for garbage activists to get together to know each other and exchange of views. Also, tell about their experiences so that those who want to work do not know where and how to start.

Nima Mirzaei joined us a little later to help us manage this slight movement optimally. The three of us, who are not famous, came together and asked you to attend this meeting to get to know each other, talk and get ideas from each other so that we might take more effective steps.

  • In this meeting, we asked four activists in the field of waste management to talk about waste management from three dimensions: social and cultural, urban policies, and technical and executive.

Excerpts from the first panel: The social and cultural dimension.

In the first panel, Mr. Hassani looked at the issue of garbage collection from a civil, and social perspective.

  • Hassani, citing the “Stolen Childhood ” research, pointed to the 4,000 billion toman turnover of garbage in Tehran and the rotation of this national wealth in an underground economy. He spoke about the hire of illegal immigrant labor and it seemed to be illegal to justify the cheapness of this labor force to balance of wages of domestic and foreign workers. In the meantime, more focus has been placed on the obedient child labor of the garbage collector, who has no bargaining power, so that the cost of collection and segregation is as low as possible. Thus, the meager cost makes the public sector unable to enter the cycle and compete with it.
  • Hassani referred to their teaching experience in 1984 in Mahmudabad and Ashrafabad. The form of child labor, he quotes, turns into “child slavery.” In conclusion, he pointed out that the problem of garbage collection can’t be solved by governments alone and said that solving this problem requires a national effort. “Social monitoring queue” is what can solve this problem.
  • Sepideh Salarvand, in her master’s thesis, has sought to address the issue of garbage collection to identify the children of garbage collectors. (This dissertation has been published under the title “As if I had been dumbfounded”). As part of her research, she taught garbage collector children. Due to the nature of this work, which is practically takes a lot of time, educational programs can’t have high quality. According to her experience, she realized that their lives are not entirely in hardship and misery and that the situation of these people should not be merely blacked out.
  • She also mentioned the official recycling centers, which are currently worse than the informal ones. In both parts, some actions should be taken. Now, several researches in this field are carried out by non-governmental organizations. In the current situation in which the municipality itself admits to abusing contractors, instead of being ahead of the municipality and haveing demands, non-governmental organizations are seeking further research in this area. One of the vital factors that should be taken into account is the problem of garbage collection and the method of waste separation.It should not be private in the first place. She also referred to the circular submitted by the municipality, which said that 50% of Tehran’s reservoirs should be collected by June in next year. This plan is currently being pursued in the Cup plan and will be implemented as a pilot in 4 regions. The project, which also bans children’s garbage collection, does not address what happens to these children after the ban. Salarvand pointed out the difference between migrants who collect garbage and other migrants, and that garbage collectors do not necessarily do so due to extreme poverty. In the end, in her opinion, a general acquaintance with the subject has been formed and it should be according to the existing conditions; Consider the situation of the dollar, the corona and other factors, and we will face this phenomenon until the waste management system changes.
  • Excerpts from the second panel: The dimension of urban policy

Mr. Karimian began his discussion with the pathology of existing research in the field of waste management. Existing research has only examined the last loop of this issue and has not gone beyond. A study can explore other aspects of this issue, for example, suggesting a new approach for policymakers. In his dissertation, he examined the policies that have led to the use, continuity, and consolidation of the informal workforce.

Karimian’s specific question was that under which process and points of decision-making, the policy of dry waste management in the city of Tehran, led the dry waste collectors to use the informal force of garbage collection with such working conditions?

And the primary assumption of this question has been that the use of garbage collectors has not only been limited and exceptional but also systematic and has played a significant role in generating income for contractors and municipal areas. In addition to our formal institutions, there are informal institutions that have power, and we must seek changes we want throughout these informal institutions. The situation will not change just by change in a few laws. Garbage collectors are, in fact, a powerless force formed in an informal institution and working.

  • Examining waste management policies over time, it seems that in the 1990s, policies that led the waste organization to irresponsibility were linked to privatization. In 1999, all areas of Tehran were relegatedto the private sector. The issue of waste management initially requires costs to form mechanisms and implement its technical system. Still, with privatization, we bring it to profit and eliminate the means of environmental protection and workers. The second event that led to the continuation of profit was the implementing of a mechanized plan in the city of Tehran, which had nothing to do with its name.This mechanism, implemented in 2008, placed reservoirs in Tehran that made it easier to access dry waste, and contractors did not need to go to and collect dry waste. These conditions enabled contractors to use cheap, unsupervised labor in the way dry waste is collected. The third stage also occurred when the terms of the contract were assigned to the municipalities of each region and were removed from the control of the waste management organization. As a result, urban areas deal with waste policy separately and the possibility of forming extensive and integrated policies has been removed from the municipality of Tehran.With the increasing price of auctions in the regions, the collection of dry waste has become one of the sources of income of Tehran Municipality and not as one of the duties of municipalities. Finally, Mr. Karimian mentioned the systematic breaking of waste management rules in Tehran. He considered the solution in recognizing informal organizations and seeing the rules in the ratio and benefit of them. Talking about law enforcement alone cannot be effective.
  • In this panel, Mr. Mahmoud Mojtahedzadeh addressed technical and executive barriers in the field of waste management. At the beginning of his speech, he mentioned that the lack of proper waste management causes not only social problems such as garbage collection, but also causes many environmental and health problems in the country. Mojtahedzadeh mentioned talking about privatization in previous panels. Privatization, in general, can be practical and helpful in solving problems. But if privatization is not obeying the rules, the private sector can become looters instead of reformers. In addition, in the absence of law and oversight, the private sector becomes more wealthy and, the fight against corruption stemming from these inefficient systems becomes more difficult.

The main focus of the panel was on the obstacles to successful waste management. Among the existing technical and executive barriers, the following were mentioned:

  • Not considering the waste management engineering principles in the waste management organization: It has led to failure in managing the organization’s missions because general waste management programs aren’t based on up-to-date principles of waste management engineering. Undoubtedly, to achieve the desired goals, the existence of a strategic plan along with the use of waste management engineering principles is essential.
  • Not evaluating and not implementing the law on waste management in the country: In this law, the responsibilities of various organizations and institutions in the field of waste are stated.
  • Inadequacies and imperfection of the waste management law: Finding the law’s weaknesses and amending them first requires the implementation and testing of the law.
  • Incompleteness of engineering standards in waste management (such as quality standards for recycled materials) in the country
  • Shortcomings in sustainable culture building in the field of waste management: Culture building can be successful and fruitful when it is done around law and a written program in the field of waste management.
  • Failure to study and deal with the issue of the interests of public and private stakeholders when developing comprehensive waste management plans
  • Reluctance to change habits and procedures in the municipality and waste management organization

Organizer: Bahareh Piriaei and Saba Ghadimi

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