The 29th International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) World Congress took place on October 7–9, 2019, in Bilbao, Spain. More than 1,200 solid waste management professionals, government officials, industry leaders, policy makers, scientists, and young professionals attended the three-day event.
The ISWA World Congress’s scientific program focuses on sustainable waste management, circular economy, and resource efficiency across six tracks: sustainable cities, technologies in waste management, digital innovation, climate change, social innovation, and marine litter. Banyan Global presented the findings and recommendations from its women’s economic empowerment and equality analysis of the solid waste management and recycling sector as part of the scientific program. We also led a discussion on women in the sector during a concurrent session organized by the Women of Waste (WOW!). WOW! is supported by ISWA and was created by women in the solid waste management industry to advocate for and spotlight women’s work and achievements in the sector.
The geographic scope of the analysis, which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development, is global, with a specific focus on Latin America and the Caribbean. Country-level analyses of the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru were based on key stakeholder interviews and documents review. The analysis highlights women in solid waste management and recycling and the challenges they face, such as lack of visibility due to the chronic absence of both sector-wide and sex-disaggregated data. The absence of data undermines the ability of governments, donors, and other stakeholders to measure women’s contributions to waste management and recycling, track development outcomes, and benchmark change. Even though the visibility of women’s involvement in the sector is limited and there is little data on their involvement, women work formally and informally in the sector as recyclers, waste pickers, sorters, intermediaries, business owners, and employees of municipal waste service providers.