his booklet is about people who earn a livelihood and support their families by extracting value from solid waste. These people are sometimes called rag pickers, waste pickers or scavengers. There are millions of them in cities all around the world, and their work is about finding value in the waste that other people throw away, cleaning the waste, and selling it to industry. The attitudes of municipal au- thorities towards them differ from place to place. In some places there is hostility, in some places indifference, and in some places they are regarded as a useful part of the waste management system.
This booklet has arisen out of a study that was undertaken in six cities in four continents to look at the economic aspects of informal recycling and to determine whether these recycling workers create a net economic benefit to their cities or an economic cost. The booklet presents the findings of the study as a basis for a discussion of the economic impacts of informal sector activities in solid waste management. These impacts may be experienced on a local, regional or global scale.