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Title: Unpacking the Circular Economy: Foregrounding the Contributions of Workers in the Informal Economy in Delhi
Authors: Sreerupa
Goel, Kritika
Andharia, Jahnvi
Keywords: Circular Economy
Street Vendors
Waste Pickers
Home-based Workers
Issue Date: Jun-2023
Publisher: Institute of Social Studies Trust
Abstract: The circular economy has emerged as a viable alternative to the “take–make–use–dispose” linear economy by encouraging reuse, repair and recycling whenever possible, thereby reducing waste generation and encouraging more conscientious use of natural resources. Although the Global South has a long history of traditional informal livelihoods that are inherently circular and attempt to generate value out of waste to the farthest extent possible, these informal livelihoods remain neglected in research and discourse on the circular economy. This report presents six case studies of informal livelihoods in the city of Delhi. The case studies found that workers in the informal economy are vital to circular production, contributing significantly to managing waste and closing material cycles through promoting repair, reuse, and upcycling of waste. Moreover, the workers in the informal economy help subsidize the cost of living for them in the city by providing affordable goods and services. Despite their positive contributions to the economy and the environment, these informal circular livelihoods are “invisibilized”, “stigmatized” and under constant threat because of unfavourable legislation. Such work is predominantly performed by socially “othered” people, particularly members of lower castes and tribes and religious minorities, due to the social stigma associated with the impurity of waste. Poor widowed/separated and old migrant women from marginalized communities were found to be most vulnerable and concentrated in the lowest-paid and precarious work of waste collection, street vending, and home-based work. The study found that workers in the informal economy are at the core of the circular economy, devising innovative ways to tackle the “throwaway culture” (or rapid waste generation) within their limited means despite the lack of state support and social protection while facing socio-economic marginalization and stigmatization.
URI: http://localhost:8080/xmlui/handle/123456789/1716
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