Waste Pickers are persons that make a living or survive by scavenging trash dumps for re-sellable materials. Some estimates state that 15 million people survive by picking waste. A world bank study estimates that up to 2% of the world’s population depends on some form of trash to survive.
A good place to start to understand waste pickers is wikipedia:
The world’s population consumes a vast amount of plastic. Much of this can be recycled. Waste Pickers scour trash dumps for various plastics and resell them to recyclers. The legal status and protection of these works vary widely around the world. In some places they are unionized and in others they themselves are seen as trash and attacked and killed. The fruit of their back breaking and dangerous labor is the raw material for a multi-billion dollar industry. Yet they are often paid a fraction of the value of their product.
Organizations are forming to create a fair-trade system for the plastic they collect that in turn is used to create the raw material for 3D printers. The London based Ethical Filament Foundation’s mission is to create standards and to certify companies that uphold their standards.
In the future the waste pickers may be able to process and recycle their plastic into a value added product of 3D printer filament. This is being done today on very small scales in India.
Protoprint offers a video of their impressive work:
Protoprint has shredding and extruding their own HDPE plastic filament for use in 3D printing machines.