A global investigation delving into the ever-changing worlds of waste pickers in Mexico City and Bangalore.

The project Chiefs of Waste was developed by Shay Raviv and Dorota Gazy at design research studio STBY,
in collaboration with Studio José de la O in Mexico and Quicksand in Bangalore. The installation was presented as part of the exhibition GEO—DESIGN Junk: All That Is Solid Melts during Dutch Design Week 2019.

Presenting the blurry lines between between formal and informal systems

Waste-pickers perform between 50 and 100 percent of waste collection in most cities in developing countries, according to the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). This informal way of waste management fills the gap where official systems are failing, and provides a livelihood for millions of people.

There are an estimated 15 million waste pickers currently operating around the world. Traditionally seen as tokens of the informal economy and often stigmatised, over the past ten years they have begun to organise themselves, seeking recognition, protection and workers’ rights. However, there are downsides to becoming a more regulated industry.

Using objects to expose complex structures

In collaboration with Studio José de la O and Quicksand, Shay and Dorota conducted a global investigation that delves into the changing worlds of waste pickers in Mexico City and Bangalore. Together we uncovered the networks, actors and structures that span the blurry lines between formal and informal systems. Using objects to represent complex organisations and relationships, the project gathers together a selection of artefacts used by waste pickers as well as a series of stories that accompany them.

As gateways to a deeper understanding of wider systems, the harvested artefacts were then combined to create portraits of previously elusive organisational work. In doing so, the exhibit seeks to illuminate the real stories of waste pickers and their struggle to be accepted as important actors in the waste economy. Presented in a commercial space – the shop Sissy Boy situated across Design Academy Eindhoven, where products that are made across the globe are sold, the project seeks to provoke a wider assessment of the relationship between production, consumption and waste.

Chiefs of Waste was part of the exhibition GEO—DESIGN JUNK: All That Is Solid Melts into Trash curated by Martina Muzi and Joseph Grima. Presented during the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven 2019. This exhibition, produced in

collaboration with the Van Abbe Museum, showcases eighteen thought-provoking design research projects by Design Academy Eindhoven alumni.


Studio José de la O:
José de la O, 
Andrea Michael De la Peña

Quicksand: Babitha
George, Pollyanna Moss,
Vinodh Kumar

STBY: Bas Raijmakers,
Geke van Dijk, Megan Anderson, Femke Kocken, Nina Stegeman

Studio Pim Top

DUO44: Michèle Degen
& Julia Schäfer