SRI and the SDGs

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SRI and SDGs

SDG 1: No Poverty

The Sustainable Recycling Industries Programme (SRI) contributes to SDG 1 by strengthening job opportunities in the recycling industry and helping former informal workers gain a formal income to provide for their families as well as by fostering young entrepreneurs. It does so by working together with various partners from the private as well as from the public sector in the implementing countries. A specific example of SRIs contribution to SDG 1 is the establishment of a youth-incubator project in Egypt.

The project called E-Khorda attracted young entrepreneurs in the field of recycling to submit their business plans of which the most promising were selected and rewarded with investments into their companies. Another example is the collaboration with the national cleaner production center in Colombia which led to the creation of a collective take-back system based on extended producer responsibility called Ecocomputo, which covers over 50% of the producers and importers of computers. In the course, 500 new direct jobs in the recycling industry among side investment flows of over two million dollars were generated. Finally, SRI realized the Guidance Principles for the Sustainable Management of Secondary Metals, an international workshop agreement under the regulation of the international organization for standardization (ISO IWA 19: 2017), to, amongst others, improve the livelihoods of employees in the recycling sector. The agreement enables a more sustainable and inclusive approach to recycling, and improves practices of economic operators, ensures a credible traceability of recovered metals and promotes the formalization of economic operators involved in subsistence activities and unofficial business activities. The principles are seen as a major step towards achieving more social equity, environmental justice and optimal recovery in metal recycling worldwide.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

The sustainable recycling industries programme contributes to the SDG 2 by fostering a strong, safe, equitable and sustainable recycling industry around the globe. This includes a growth in employment opportunities and therefore an improvement of livelihoods of the concerning people, who then can provide food for their families. More information on the topic can be found here, here and in the Sustainable Recycling Industries info-video.


SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being

To contribute to the SDG 3, the Sustainable Recycling Industries Programme (SRI) implements healthy and safe, yet efficient and sustainable recycling techniques which can be applied by working men and women in the informal sector. It does so by raising awareness, providing trainings for future instructors and auditors as well as technical assistance on how to move from worst to good practices. This is especially relevant in developing countries, where 90% of recycling activities are undertaken by the informal sector and in many cases unsustainable recycling techniques are applied. Worst-practices, e.g., to recover secondary metals from end-of-life tyres (ELTs), waste electronic cables or fridges through open burning, account for severe negative impacts on human health. To illustrate this, the unsafe disassembly of a discarded refrigerator can emit about 500 kg of CO 2 impacting on climate change. To learn more on the negative impacts of worst practices, consult the analysis “Life Cycle Assessments of Selected Worst Practices in Secondary Metals Recovery and Recommendations to Move Towards Good Practices” conducted by SRI.

SRI offers Massive Open Online Courses or “train-the-trainers & auditors”-workshops on ISO international workshop agreement (IWA) 19: 2017, a document compiled by SRI. The first internal auditors training was held in Honduras, providing training for Latin American representatives from Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Honduras. The ISO IWA 19: 2017 describes Guidance Principles for the Sustainable Management of Secondary Metals which include criteria that help improve the lives of workers in the recycling sector such as:

  • Awareness raising and training on occupational health and safety issues
  • Employment contracts and conditions such as working hours and overtime, fair salary, holidays and social benefits especially for working women
  • No child labour
  • Prevention of forced labour, harassment and discrimination
  • Social inclusion of workers from the informal sector

After the above described workshops, the auditors will implement the standards of the Guidance Principles for the Sustainable Management of Secondary Metals in their respective countries. Hence, these trainings prove to be a very effective way of reaching a large amount of people and improve their livelihoods by shifting from worst- to good practices.

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

While collecting, reducing, reusing, and recycling some materials is technologically and economically feasible, others, like plastics, present a bigger challenge. Low oil prices, thousands of applications of plastics, sorting and recycling challenges, and poor waste management infrastructure have resulted in millions of tonnes of plastics disposed on rivers and lakes coasts flooding into the ocean annually. Therefore, managing waste contributes to making water less polluted. In the Sustainable Recycling Industries Programme focus country India, up to 60% of the disposed plastic waste is recycled, which is a much higher recycling rate than common in European countries. This high recycling rate is largely due to the presence of the informal sector which consists of a multitude of small businesses and self-employed persons with no or little legal recognition and social protection. More information on the topic can be found here. By providing relatively simple techniques applicable by informal workers and working towards a certificate for sustainably recycled plastics in India, SRI contributes to both keeping the recycling rate in India high, as well the reduction of waste, which would eventually end up in water bodies, and thus to the SDG 6.

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Instead of formal actors, in developing countries it is often informal actors that have successfully built businesses on the collection, trade and recycling of plastic waste.

This informal sector consists of small businesses and self-employed persons with little or no legal recognition and low capital investments. Its workers are often wrongly considered to be poorly skilled and to possess little technological know-how. Yet, the informal recycling sector as a whole contributes massively to a more circular plastic economy. Furthermore, this sector is one of the most dynamic and adaptive, catering to ever- changing demands in plastic products. The informal plastic recycling sector contributes to sustainable economic growth, by supporting numerous livelihoods and creating value out of waste, while having a positive impact on the environment. According to estimations, the informal sector as a whole reaches an annual turnover of $1 billion, and it is set to grow even more with rising waste volumes on the supply side and increasing purchasing power of consumers on the demand side. As in other segments of the informal economy, shortcomings related to labor rights and occupational safety are widespread in the informal plastic recycling sector. Better practices are needed to ensure the sustainability of the whole value chain. To contribute to the social and economic sustainability, the Sustainable Recycling Industries Programme helped to establish the GreenCo rating system for e-waste and plastics specifically in India as well as it established the ISO IWA 19:2017 on the sustainable recycling of secondary metals. To contribute to the environmental sustainability SRI works towards the reduction of negative environmental impacts such as soil, water and air pollution by so called worst practices in the recycling business by replacing them with alternative good practices and alternative business models.

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

To foster industry, innovation and infrastructure, the Sustainable Recycling Industries Programme implements “good practices” instead of the existing “worst practices”. These practices are simple, yet effective and sustainable techniques and strategies applicable by the informal sector. Some of the worst practices identified by SRI, for which SRI introduced good practices, concern the following activities:

  • Poor housekeeping during collection: Handling, logistics and facilities
  • Non-compliant trading and poor housekeeping in transportation
  • Unsafe manual dismantling
  • Low-quality segregation during mechanical processing
  • Low-tech, unsound smelting and off-burning
  • Other low-tech, unsound chemical leaching
  • Open burning
  • Open dumping

A detailed report on those activities and their respective good practice alternatives can be found here. Furthermore, the Sustainable Recycling Industries Programme contributes to the SDG 9 by encouraging the establishment of new recycling plants as well as the auditing of existing ones. Through this, safe and environmentally sound job opportunities are created. The improvement of the current conditions as well as the auditing in the recycling plants, the strengthening of the recycling sector and introduction of innovative practices to the sector is done through i) the various standards established by SRI, e.g. the ISO IWA 19: 2017 as well as the Green Co rating system and ii) through the various trainings for owners, employees and future auditors, including massive open online courses as well as trainings on the job.

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