Photos by Igor Vermeer
Chiefs of Waste
Dorota Gazy and Shay Raviv
Informal waste-pickers perform between 50 and 100 percent of waste collection in most cities in developing countries, according to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). Waste picking fills the gaps where official systems are failing and provides a livelihood for millions of people. There are an estimated 15 million waste pickers currently operating around the world. Traditionally seen as tokens of the informal economy and often stigmatised, over the past ten years they have begun to organise themselves, seeking recognition, protection and workers’ rights. However, there are downsides to becoming a more regulated industry.
In Chiefs of Waste, Gazy and Raviv embark on a global investigation that delves into the changing worlds of waste pickers in Mexico City and Bangalore, uncovering the networks, actors and structures that span the blurry lines between formal and informal systems. Using objects to expose complex organisations and relationships, the project gathers together a selection of artefacts used by waste pickers as well as a series of stories that accompany them. As gateways to deeper understandings of wider systems, these harvested artefacts combine to create portraits of previously elusive organisational work. In doing so, the exhibit seeks to illuminate the real stories of waste pickers and their struggle to be accepted as important actors in the waste economy. Presented in a commercial space, where products that are made across the globe are sold, the project seeks to provoke a wider assessment of the relationship between production, consumption and waste.
Design Research, Mexico City: Studio José de la O (José de la O, Andrea Michael De la Peña)
Design Research, Bangalore: Quicksand (Babitha George, Pollyanna Moss, Vinodh Kumar)
Design Research Support: STBY (Bas Raijmakers, Geke van Dijk, Megan Anderson, Femke Kocken, Nina Stegeman)
Photography: Studio Pim Top
Graphic Design Support: DUO44 (Michèle Degen & Julia Schäfer)
Anne Scheinberg, “Waste Pickers: Poor Victims or Waste Management Professionals?” Sixth Meeting of the Collaborative Working Group on Solid Waste Management in Low-Income Countries (CWG), Kolkata, 2006.
Carl Bartone, “The Value in Wastes,” Decade Watch, September 1988.
Martin Medina, “Waste Picker Cooperatives in Developing Countries,” El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Mexico, 2005. Link
Silpa Kaza et al., What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2018). Link
Sonia Dias and Melanie Samson, Informal Economy Monitoring Study Sector Report: Waste Pickers (Cambridge: WIEGO, 2016).
UN-Habitat, Solid Waste Management in the World’s Cities: Water and Sanitation in the World’s Cities 2010 (London and Washington, D.C.: Earthscan, 2010). Link
Dorota Gazy graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven after completing her BA/MA in Art History at the University of Amsterdam/Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She combines her academic skills with her design approach, and is focused on making people aware of their ability to make choices and changes.
Shay Raviv is a design innovator and researcher, focused on developing social-cultural concepts. She graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven department of Man & Leisure in 2015. Her work is driven by creative thinking: her projects are designed to create meaningful experiences, stories, services, images and human systems, which place the individual at the centre of the process.