Circular economy and waste
Currently, e-waste is often processed in the informal sector by sources of illicit labour, such as pregnant women and minors. E-waste disposal and recycling jobs are often unsafe and not protected by formal regulation. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), e-waste handling is “characterised by manual stripping to remove electronic boards for resale, open burning of wires to recover few major components (copper, aluminium, iron), and the deposition of other bulk components, including CRTs (cathode-ray tubes), in open dumpsites.”
Opportunity associated with job creation and greater workforce protection.
Risk to women’s health and improved outcomes as well as women’s jobs in the waste sector.
Many developing countries already have large informal waste management and recycling sectors, focused on areas such as food waste, e-waste, and phone repairs. Given the right support, the formalisation of these circular economy sectors could improve working conditions and provide new opportunities for female-focused diversification, value-creation and skills development.
Gender-smart investors could support the development of recycling infrastructure and waste disposal systems by:
- Investing in circular economy start-ups and making investment conditional on improvements in workplace standards.
- Collaborating with investees and regulators to drive the development and implementation of workplace regulations (including insurance) in the sector.
- Working with stakeholders focused on skills development to provide women with the capabilities necessary to work in the circular economy sector, with the aim of improving longer-term outcomes (ensuring it is not simply a transitional job in childhood or during pregnancy).