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Sri Lanka is well known for its warm water and long sandy beaches
- easily accessible from the nearby capital Colombo.
But like cities everywhere
there is the challenge of waste management.
This facility processes 500 metric tones of refuse daily.
It attracts waste pickers like L.R. Wasanthi.
Each day she sorts through the garbage
to find material she can sell to recyclers.
In 2011, the International Labour Organization
began working with the provincial Waste Management Authority
to improve working conditions for people like Wasanthi.
Her job is becoming more formalized
and all the workers here are registered with the WMA.
Through the support of the Australian Government
– ILO Partnership Agreement,
Wasanthi has received tools and training
on safer recycling practices to ensure the job she does
helps her nation and the environment.
“The workers received training from the ILO
about occupational safety and health
and also about the importance of their work.
That improved their sense of dignity
and they also became more productive.”
Improving working conditions
in environmentally sensitive sectors of the economy
is helping create and formalize the concept of ‘green jobs.’
At this automated facility,
workers are separating bio-degradable waste
to create bio-compost.
It’s a product increasingly in demand
by Sri Lanka’s important agricultural sector.
150 years of harvesting has degraded the soil
on tea plantations like this one.
Using the locally produced bio-compost
makes good business sense
because it reduces reliance on expensive, chemically enhanced compost.
The director of this company has just placed an initial order
for 200 metric tones of the WMA’s ILO-supported green jobs compost.
“In addition to creating additional jobs we’ll be doing the country a service
because we’ll be disposing of the garbage and other unnecessary materials
that will cause other problems… like health problems,
we’ll convert it into something useful and profitable for us
in terms of sustainability of plant yield and our quality of tea.”
“A lot of employers are into doing green practices on their own.
We notice that there are green practices happening
within a lot of companies in Sri Lanka.”
From a worker’s perspective, in order for employment to become green,
the work must also be considered decent.
The training of these workers and
the formalization of their duties is helping to achieve that.
“This is the first project that addressed
the working people’s health of these waste handlers.
They said they never had any training programmes
thoughout their working life.
So this was the first time they had a training programme
with regard to occupational safety and health.”
“The workers in the garbage sector
or the sanitary sector were looked down upon as the lowest
but to make it a decent job and there are people
who will now try to get into this job
because there is some kind of dignity attached to it.”
It’s now midday at the landfill
– it’s hot –
and Wasanthi decides it’s time for a break.
She lives nearby and heads home for lunch.
Wasanthi makes enough money to support her entire family.
So much so, that her husband now
stays home to look after the children and prepare the meals.
“Yes, we do earn a good living from this work.
But we also feel we contribute to improving the environment
when we pick up a coconut shell or a yoghurt cup for recycling.
Prior to the ILO training we went to work in our street clothes,
but that was unsanitary.
Now we go to work in more appropriate attire.”
“Equipping these workers and training them
on the importance of their jobs is the first step in ensuring green jobs.
However we also have to fulfill the needs of our constituents,
namely the government the workers and the employers,
and ensure that their economic and environment needs are met.
Thanks to the Australian Government – ILO Partnership Agreement
we are quite confident that we have achieved this.”
Creating and sustaining green jobs requires the collaboration of many.
From the workers providing vital tasks like separation and recycling
to the authorities that oversee production
– and of course employers and industry always on the lookout
to remain competitive through new opportunities.
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