Law Report: Bangladesh
Waste Pickers in Bangladesh
Like in most other countries, waste management is a function entrusted to the local bodies in Bangladesh. It is estimated that nearly 100,000 waste pickers work in Dhaka alone. It employs women and children and waste picking children in Dhaka are popularly known as ‘tokai’.
Size and Significance
The recycling industry is a lucrative trade in Bangladesh with nearly 200 factories engaged in recycling plastic bottles. The end product is exported to China and Thailand to be converted to nylon and related products.
Majority of the waste pickers are illiterate and work long hours to eke a meager living. Many are below the poverty line and work in hazardous conditions. Sorting in bins and dumpsites, they handle household waste alongside hazardous hospital waste directly, as no protective gear such as masks or gloves are provided.
The average earnings range from 80 to 200 tk, the latter being earned by a worker who clocks about 10 to 12 hours of work. A large number of migrants are also employed as waste pickers and many work part time as waste pickers to supplement their income.
Law and Policies
Bangladesh does have exclusive government bodies or departments to deal with waste. The conservancy section of the urban local bodies carries out the function of solid waste management, in addition to its functions relating to sanitation. The city corporations and municipalities are governed by local laws and with regard to municipal waste, they contain nearly identical provisions. The local laws do not recognize waste pickers as a part of the waste management system and indirectly seek to exclude them by vesting all rights and claims in waste with the local bodies. It broadly states that all refuse removed and collected by staff of pourashava/city corporation or under their control and supervision and all refuse deposited in the bins and other receptacles provided by the poursahava/city corporation shall be the property of the pourashava/city corporation.
National Policy for Water Supply and Sanitation, 1998 The policy states that the government shall take measures for recycling of waste and enable the compost and bio-gas production through organic waste materials.
The Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995 The Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995, contains provisions for waste management and broadly provide for a) regulation of waste generated by industries and other development related activities ; b) sets standards for quality of air, water, noise and soil for differing purposes and (c ) sets the standard limit for discharging and emitting of waste.
Lead Acid Battery Recycling and Management Rules, 2006: The rules enable better and improved collection and recycling of lead acid batteries.
Draft National Solid Waste Management Handling Rules, 2005: 3R principal has been used. This rule has been prepared by Waste Concern under SEMP.
Bio Medical Waste Management Rules, 2008: The rule mandate separation of medical or hospital waste and provides for their separate collection, transportation and disposal.
Organisation and Voice
NGOs like Waste Concerns, Prodipon and Prism work for solid and medical waste management in Bangladesh. Trash can generate cash; so some attention, though still inadequate, is now directed into it by the government.