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Waste Pickers in Cape Coast Face Repressive Treatment and Unsafe Working Conditions, Ghana

Waste pickers in Ghana's Cape Coast struggle to access recyclable materials due to privatization by waste management companies and district assemblies that deem waste picking theft. Waste pickers work in unregulated conditions with little protective gear.


Green Africa Youth Organization’s (GAYO) work with waste pickers in Ghana is centered around issues concerning working conditions and the rights of waste pickers to continue their work. In 2017, they worked with informal recyclers in Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly, a dense district that is home to more than 8 percent of the people living in Ghana’s central region. Members of GAYO, like Desmond Alugnoa, were able to gain insight into aspects of the waste pickers’ struggle there by conducting interviews with recyclers, district officials, and Zoomlion, Ghana’s major waste management company. The content of this article is exclusively informed by what members of GAYO were able to learn through these interviews. Waste pickers in Cape Coast are not organized because they participate in the informal economy, making their personal safety and job security rather precarious. For the past few years, workers in this industry have made their living by finding the materials that are in demand by middlemen and businesses. Recyclers have searched in the streets of local communities by going from household to household, or at the local dumpsite where they sort through the piles of garbage and find what they need. However, their work in the community as well as the at the dump site has been made difficult by the policies and actions taken by waste management companies and local governments.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Waste Pickers in Cape Coast Face Repressive Treatment and Unsafe Working Conditions, Ghana
State or province:Central Region
Location of conflict:Cape Coast Metropolitan District
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:01/01/2017
Company names or state enterprises:Zoomlion Ghana Ltd. from Ghana - Cape Coast Waste Management Company
Relevant government actors:Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO)

Green Africa Youth Organization
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageUnknown
Groups mobilizing:Wastepickers, recyclers
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Waste overflow
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Proposal and development of alternatives:WIEGO suggests that groups of waste pickers in the region begin organizing themselves around securing their livelihoods and having improved working conditions (1).
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Waste pickers continue to be harassed and sometimes restricted from accessing recyclable materials at the dump site.
Sources & Materials
Other documents

Interview with Desmond Alugnoa of Green Africa Youth Organization Interview with Desmond Alugnoa of Green Africa Youth Organization on April 22nd, 2019
[click to view]

Other comments:References
1. Interview with Desmond Alugnoa of Green Africa Youth Organization, April 22 2019.
Meta information
Contributor:Rickie Cleere, University of Bayreuth - ICTA, [email protected], Desmond Alugnoa, Green Africa Youth Organization, [email protected]
Last update28/09/2019
Conflict ID:4388
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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