March 1st: Reflecting on Waste Picker Accomplishments in 2012


Waste Pickers

Over the course of 2012, Inclusive Cities’ partners have made great strides towards the inclusion of waste pickers into waste management and recycling systems around the world. In addition to the active participation of waste picker organizations in events like the sixth World Urban Forum (WUF6), the People’s Summit Rio+20 and Expocatadores 2012, the past year was also host to two big firsts:

The first Congress of Latin American Waste Pickers met in Managua, Nicaragua, in February of 2012. The goal was to unify waste picker organizations across the continent, and as a result of networking between waste picker organizations, the solidarity has grown from five participating countries to 17.

Another first for 2012 was the Global Strategic Workshop for Waste Pickers held in Pune, India from April 27-29. The event was hosted by Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) and SWaCH on behalf of the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers (GlobalRec), with help from WIEGO and the Inclusive Cities project. The workshop gathered waste pickers from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Together, waste pickers compared challenges, shared experiences and discussed the need to be included in existing waste management systems.

At the sixth World Urban Forum (WUF6), speakers from the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), StreetNet and the Brazilian National Movement of Waste Pickers (MNCR) were the panel leaders at our networking event, “The Role of the Informal Economy in Cities: Current Realities and Future Prospects.”

During this event, SEWA discussed a contract signed with the Katihar Municipal Corporation in March 2012, allowing waste pickers to collect trash in nine wards—which has been implemented 100 per cent within six months! The collectors, all of whom were recruited and trained by SEWA Bharat, now feel more valued by their community. Their wages have improved enough that many can afford to send their children to school, and they have an improved quality of life overall.

At Rio+20 and the People’s Summit, many of our partners led multiple activities throughout the weekend; the National Waste Pickers’ Movement of Brazil (MNCR) in particular. Partner panels and events included:

  • “Resistance to Incinerators in the World”, hosted by MNCR, IEN, RedLacre, and GAIA
  • “The Social and Environmental Impact of the Waste Industry”, hosted by GAIA
  • Sharing experiences from the Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers, specifically focused on Biogas practices, was hosted by SMS
  • A Global Context Analysis, hosted by RedLacre, WIEGO, KKPKP, and MNCR
  • WIEGO, GAIA, MNCR, and GlobalRec participated in the “March Against Incineration — Toxic Tour at Ilha do Fundão”

The beneficial impact waste pickers have on sustainable, environmentally-friendly waste management practices was highlighted. Working examples were given from countries where the National Waste Policy has made changes for the better.

Expocatadores 2012, held in November, brought together waste pickers from Latin America, Kenya, India, Benin, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to discuss issues related to waste pickers with attending government leaders and other visitors. Here the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers held a panel discussion, and RedLacre presented the history of its organization.

Back in October, Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) was recognized for the Durban Cardboard Recycling Project; receiving a commendation from the AfriSam-South African Institute of Architects (SAIA). The project has received media attention due to its great success including waste pickers in Durban’s waste management, and highlighting the environmental benefits of segregation and recycling. The Durban Cardboard Recycling Project has not only created a more stable income for waste pickers, but has also fostered relationships between government, the private sector, and waste pickers.

In early December, the Association of Recyclers of Bogotá, Colombia (ARB) arranged a march on December 13, 2012 to encourage Bogota’s government into implementing an agreement made over a year ago, in 2011. The agreement stated that Bogota’s waste pickers would be used in the region’s solid waste management system yet the government had disregarded this court order. During the march ARB delivered a petition to the mayor, and in response, an agreement was reached in favour of waste pickers (Decree 564). Thanks to this decree, waste pickers in Bogota will now receive compensation for collecting and selling recyclables!


For More Information…

“Struggles and Victories: Waste Pickers on the Frontline. Jan-Feb 2013.” Global Alliance of Waste Pickers. February 27, 2013. Newsletter.

“SEWA Bharat’s Inclusive Solid Waste Management Model.” Inclusive Cities. January 16, 2013.

“The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers at Expocatadores: Highlights.” Inclusive Cities. December 26, 2012.

“Stop the Forced Removal of Informal Workers During “Beautification” Projects!” Global Alliance of Waste Pickers. September 27, 2012.

“Inclusive Cities Delegates Talk Trash at World Urban Forum.” Inclusive Cities. September 3, 2012.

“Cardboard Recycling Project in the News.” Asiye eTafuleni. July 13, 2012.

“Waste pickers at Rio+20 & the People’s Summit: One foot in the social movement, the other in the U.N. convention center.” Global Alliance of Waste Pickers. June 18, 2012.

“Catadores na Cúpula dos Povos e no Rio+20.” Global Alliance of Waste Pickers. June 13, 2012.