The situation of street collectors in Turkey

Street Collectors

In Turkey, the collection of recyclable domestic waste is done mostly by street collectors (recycling workers), who work in hard conditions and without being registered. Street collectors collect and separate recyclable waste materials in order to sell them to make a living.

Carts Being Used Cause Danger

The carts street collectors use are made in small workshops, basically by welding steel tubes. These carts are problematic in many ways such as causing injuries and inconvenience in city traffic.

Social Exclusion of Street Collectors

During my interviews with street collectors, most of the workers refrained from being recorded by a camera. This proves the fact that they feel insecure in society because they face social exclusion in everyday life. The main reason for social exclusion is the fact that their job is not defined by laws, despite their crucial benefit to the recycling system.

Facts about Recycling Workers

There are more than 300,000 street collectors in Turkey.
Waste Collection Rates
26% collected by street collectors 17% by municipalities or companies 57% not collected
Recycled Waste Collection Rates
This means that up to 60% of recycled wastes are collected by street collectors.
Amount of Collected Waste
1,5 million tons of recyclable waste is collected by street collectors every year.
Economic Contribution
Aside from the environmental effect, the collection of recyclable wastes by street collectors contributed 5 billion of Euro to the Turkish economy.

Insights from the User Research

Since street collectors are an important part of the recycling system in Turkey, the working conditions of street collectors should be reconsidered to maintain a healthy life for these workers.


Evaluating The Findings From the User Research
Interviews with street collectors indicated major physical and sociological problems. Because this topic has not been studied by designers before, Saprofit aims to solve many physical problems at the same time by providing a set of new features. The social problems will be solved when the street collectors are integrated into the municipality systems.

Use Scenario

New Product for a New System
Since waste separation at household level is not common in Turkey, several municipalities began to integrate street collectors into their municipality systems. Saprofit is designed to fit in such a scenario. Saprofit aims to solve physical problems with its new features and social problems with its aesthetic look.

1. Push on 3 Wheels

On smooth surfaces, it is easier to push the cart over 3 wheels.

2. Pull on 2 Wheels

On rough surfaces, it is easier to pull the cart over 2 wheels.

3. Categorize the Waste

Different sacks for different waste materials.

4. Squeeze the Bottles

Aluminum cans and PET bottles can be squeezed to save space.

5. Be Visible at Night

To make the cart visible at city traffic, reflector bands glow in the dark.

6. Handle Sacks with Ease

Sacks have handles to be carried easily.


Establishing the Basis for a Recycling Cart

The New System Design

The integration of street collectors into the recycling systems of municipalities will solve the social problems street collectors face, such as precarity and exclusion. Moreover, it will regulate the practice of recycling, and increase the recycling rates in Turkey.

Establishing the Basis for a Recycling Cart

Saprofit is a cart that offers a practical and feasible solution for the problems of street collectors in Turkey. Saprofit defines the basis for a recycling cart for street collectors thanks to being the first design on this topic. Saprofit can easily move on different surfaces. It is easy to use at sidewalk ways and ramps thanks to its wheel construction. It can squash and classify the waste materials. The reflector bands help safety in traffic. Saprofit's aesthetic look is compatible with a city identity.

The Main Needs

Saprofit is focused on the main needs of the street collectors which were defined at the user research phase.

Ergonomic Problems

Pain in the arms Heavy cartload Holes on roads and sidewalks Maneuvering is hard Unbalanced cart body

Solution: Limiting the Amount of Waste

The user research indicated that the users tend to load the existing carts excessively. However, loading the cart too much causes injuries, and reduces the field of view in traffic. Saprofit is designed in a structure that limits the amount of waste being carried.

Solution: Push or Pull the Cart

The structure design of Saprofit is suitable for both pushing and pulling. On smooth surfaces (eg. a road in good condition), it is easier to push the cart over 3 wheels.
However, on rough surfaces (eg. a road with holes), it is easier to pull the cart over 2 wheels. Moreover, it is easier to maneuver the cart over 2 wheels.

Operational Problems

All of the waste is in the same sack Bottles and cans invade space Emptying the cart is difficult

Categorization of Waste

Existing carts only have one sack, and all of the waste is collected in the same sack. Saprofit has 4 sacks which enable the user to separate waste materials when collecting them.

The Squeezing Mechanism

The squeezing mechanism embodied in the cart enables the user to squash the plastic bottles and aluminum cans to save space.

The Handles on the Sacks

The sacks have handles to ensure an easy emptying.

Safety Problems

Hard to maneuver Unbalanced body Can't look back in traffic Not visible at night in traffic

Brake System

Existing carts don't have any brake system. This causes safety problems regarding city traffic. Saprofit has a brake system which is operated by pushing with foot. It can also lock the wheels for stopping at sloped roads.

Visibility at Night

Being visible at night is crucial for safety in city traffic. The reflector bands on the cart enable the user to be visible at nights.