A 1988 study conducted by the World Bank estimated that 1-2% of the World’s Population were waste pickers. A recent study estimated that 1.5 million people in India, primarily women and those from socially marginalized groups, were waste pickers. In the developing world, waste picking has become a women’s niche in the informal sector of the economy, as the “flexible hours” of the profession allow women to both work outside of the home, and attend to their other responsibilities, such as care-giving.
Brazil is the only country in the world that has a system in place for recording and reporting statistical data on these often socially scorned, yet valuable members of the world economy. For more information, see Brazil’s official statistics on waste pickers.
Above, photojournalist Hugo Palotto captures a woman as she works as a waste picker on the streets of Sao Paolo. For more on Palotto’s series about the Catadores, people “who clean the streets but often go unseen,” click here.
For more information on the gender politics of waste picking, click here.