The International Alliance of Waste Pickers is a union of waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries
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Accra Ghana

List of Waste Picker Groups in Accra

Waste Picker Groups (1)
Sarbah and Ablekuma

City Report: Interview with a local Waste Picker

A Conversation With: Esther Kosi.
“People don’t know that waste can build mansions” – Esther Khosi

Personal Story

A mother of four, Esther is an actress and playwright. When she lost her husband four years ago, she became a waste picker.Esther explained, “I went to a party, a grand party. A friend of mine put everything into my hands and said I should coordinate everything for her. Afterwards there were a lot of bottles left over. The next day I had a free car so I went and sold them and I saw they had real value.”She continued, “Actually I am a writer, but I work as a waste picker so I can get money.”

Formal Waste Management System

The capital and largest city in Ghana, Accra has 2,291,352 inhabitants and generates 1,500-1,800 tons of waste each day. Accra’s Agbogbloshie landfill has become a recognized international e-waste dumping ground, exposing waste pickers, including children, to toxic waste. The Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA) hires private companies to collect waste either door-to-door or in central containers, disposing of 55 per cent of the city’s waste in two landfills on the outskirts of Accra. Esther reports that residents pay 6 cedis (equivalent of US $3.25) a month for collection. She goes on to explain that although they are supposed to come once a week, there are often problems with the trucks and residents can go three weeks without collection. Some homes receive collection in common bins, which are placed on the sides of streets and in roadside containers. These bins often overflow, transforming themselves into informal dumpsites.Esther has told us that around four private companies are contracted by the AMA to collect waste in Accra. Zoom Lion Ghana Limited is the largest. Although she says that there is no formal recycling program, she has heard a rumor that Zoom Lion will be installing a recycling center. Additionally, she has heard there was an incinerator in Accra in the past, but does not believe it is still up and running.

Informal Recycling System

Although many waste pickers collect recyclables at the landfill, Esther works in the streets. Other waste pickers, who go by foot or bike, collect from homes. Another small group goes by car and tends to act as middlemen. After Esther sorts the recyclables she has collected, she borrows a car and sells to a recycling center in the industrial part of the city.

Waste Picker Organization

There is a waste picking union at the landfill that collects and sells recyclables. Esther estimates that there are an estimated seventy-five members at both dumps. “Almost everyone is a member,” she explains. “There are only a few whom they sacked as they didn’t contribute.”Esther wants to join the Ghana Trade Union Congress (TUC). She told us, “they will give us formal training and introduce us to prospective organizations so that we can benefit.”

Current Central Issues

Esther’s discussion of waste picker needs in Accra included protective equipment, including masks and gloves; health insurance; and a pension scheme.