Reducing Waste Towards a Just Transition: Work, Labour, and Value in the Informal Recycling Chain

Despite being one of the world’s most fertile plains, Adana, located on the Seyhan and Ceyhan rivers’ watery delta and near the Mediterranean port of Mersin, has been absorbing nearly half of Türkiye’s waste imports. With the high volume of waste entering the region, the recycling industry has rapidly expanded, as have the employment, and incorporation of workers, technologies, know-how, and organisational forms. In this socio-economic setting, not only have formal corporations, contracts, and regulated flows of work proliferated, but so have unregulated facilities, informal, and nonunionised workers, insecure, unsatisfactory, and precarious work and employment practices.

With a relational approach, this study aims to trace and document the informal relations that underpin the expansion of the recycling industry in Adana, while also exploring the local and global dynamics upholding this growth. It seeks to identify the material flow of waste with actors, linkages, and valorization along the recycling value chain, as well as the enabling legalities, policies, and institutions. In doing so, the current study targets to enhance the social dialogue among all parties impacted and facilitate the creation of fair, decent, and inclusive employment, and business opportunities along the recycling chain, while transitioning to more climate-neutral economies and societies.