WasteAid’s annual photography competition attracted a incredible amount of talent and passion for showing “The Wonders of Waste”. The twelve winning photos have been compiled into the 2020 WasteAid calendar which is available to pre-order now.

We are really grateful to everyone who entered the WasteAid competition to capture “The Wonders of Waste”, and huge congratulations to all the winners!

Globally, more people make their living from waste management than from any other sector, apart from farming. Yet somehow this vast army of recycling heroes is often forgotten in our celebrity culture.

This set of twelve stunning images reflects the diversity of waste management, from sorting mountains of plastic bottles to creating beautiful and useful new products.

These winning images that truly capture the wonders of waste, and we hope that they inspire people to look at waste materials, and the people who work with them, through a different lens.

Enjoy the slideshow or scroll down for the gallery. All the winning pictures feature in the 2020 WasteAid calendar.

Announcing the winners, WasteAid’s Head of Programmes and Engagement, Zoë Lenkiewicz said, “The quality of entries we received this year was really impressive, making the judging task particularly challenging. In total, more than 70 photos were submitted showing all manner of recycling activities and enterprises. We hope WasteAid supporters enjoy the winning pictures as much as we do, and in buying the 2020 WasteAid calendar can be inspired by the wonders of waste all through the year.”

The overall winners are:

Litre of Light in West Bengal, India

by Sudip Maiti (1st place)

“Liter of Light is a global, grassroots movement that uses inexpensive, readily available materials to provide high quality solar lighting to people with limited or no access to electricity. People fill plastic bottles with water and bleach, and stick them into roofs. The bleach-filled bottles then refract the light from outdoors into the house, lighting up much like a lightbulb. By slipping a test tube with a small LED lightbulb into the bottle, which is hooked up to a mini-solar panel, they can also be used as a lightbulb at night.”

A Bangladeshi plastic recycling factory worker

by Mohammed Rubel (2nd place)

A worker climbs a mountain of PET plastic bottles that have been sorted by colour. As well as being good for the environment, recycling PET bottles is big business. Bangladesh exports on an average nearly 30,000 tons of PET bottle flakes mainly to China, South Korea and Taiwan worth $14 million dollars per year.

Living on the Edge in Tehran, Iran

by Reza Rohani (3rd place)

“An unfortunate truth of suburban life in Iran has its own story. Ever increasing economic problems lead to poverty, pushing people to the edge of cities forever. While big cities are affected by overpopulation, small cities suffer much more complicated circumstances. These people are recovering industrial waste for recycling. They still have hope.”

Around the world, people are using their creativity and ingenuity to tackle the waste crisis and put waste materials to good use. It is estimated that 2 percent of the global population make a living managing waste, and we owe them respect and gratitude for reducing our toll on the environment.

WasteAid is working to improve the perception of waste management and those who work in the collection, sorting and reprocessing of waste materials. It is an honourable task and to all the unsung heroes out there we say a big thank you.


The other winning photos of “The Wonders of Waste” competition 2019 are:

Recycling leather waste near Kolkata in India

by Ashim Kumar Mukhopadhyay

“The photo shows leather waste (yellow) being heated in a kiln and the final product will be used as an effective manure for land. This picture shows how wastes are being tackled in different parts of the world. I believe it has become a challenge of many countries.”

Waste is generated at all stages of the leather-making process. Of 1000 kg of raw hide, nearly 850 kg is generated as solid wastes.

Waste is best in Gujarat, India

by Dimpal Pancholi

Cow and buffalo dung are used for making kitchenware. Cow manure is abundant in many parts of the world and has many uses including waterproof layer for floors and walls, organic fertiliser and to make biogas for cooking.

Worrrrrrrrrrrkkk in Tongi, Bangladesh

by Abdullah Al Mahfuz

“Plastic may cause pollution when poorly managed but it has lots of advantages too, such as being resistant. Many plastic items can therefore be reused or used for different purposes. Before throwing plastic items, it is important to consider how they can be reused.”

Learn to care and get a source of living in Tayabas, the Philippines

by Allan F. Castañeda

“Tayabas, Quezon is known to its unique basket products. The materials are made using dried vines. Through responsible usage of these materials, this kind of small business became a producer of exported products around the world.”

Plastics into Net near Kolkata City in India

by Ashim Kumar Mukhopadhyay

“A woman is sorting plastic bottles and putting them into nets to be sent for recycling. Instead of going to landfill, the plastic will be used to make another product. This plastic waste was previously clogging drains, but people are now aware of the negative impacts and have started doing things differently. It shows how people have started thinking wisely and how conscious they are now compared to before.”

Ship breaking in Bangladesh

by Kazi Md. Jahirul Islam

“The scrapping of ships provides the country’s main source of steel and in doing so saves substantial amount of money in foreign exchange by reducing the need to import steel. At present Bangladesh has a demand for 6 million tonnes of steel, but Bangladesh has no iron ore mines, which make ship scrapping the inevitable source of raw materials. More than 350 re-rolling mills have been using ship scraps as their raw materials, as well as the ship-building industry itself. The industry is currently supplying more than 60 percent of the raw materials for local steel industry.”


Sorting plastics in Isfahan, Iran

by Sayed Ali Dormiani Bozorg

Separating and sorting plastics for recycling is often done by hand. Items are sorted according to quality, type and colour and are then sold to reprocessors for grinding into small pieces, melting and turning into new products. Rigid plastics are easier to recycle than flexible plastics because they are easier to collect, handle and sort.

Sorting old electronics in West Bengal, India

by Avijit Ghosh

“A man sorting electronic parts from old gadgets. This is the only source of income for this community of nearly 30 people. They recover tin, silicon, iron, aluminium, lead, copper, gold and a variety of plastics from the electronic waste. The most wonderful part is how used material can help a community to survive.”

Magic waste in London, UK

by Rajat Kumar Das

“An artist creates a magical presentation for tourists and passersby, collecting all the wastes around the area, pasting all the items to the pillars under a road bridge with creative arrangement, and earning some pennies in the process. This waste, and the artist himself, become wonders for all who pass by.”

Featuring these twelve stunning pictures, the 2020 WasteAid calendar will be available to buy for £15 (GBP) through the website soon.

Perfect for home or the workplace, and as unusual Christmas gifts, our A3 WasteAid wall calendars are printed in full colour on high quality 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Each calendar is wire bound at the head and includes thumb slot with hanging hook.

Limited numbers are available so we would encourage you to pre-order to avoid disappointment.

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