Waste Pickers Take the Global Stage


This week, caravans of waste pickers and allies are arriving to participate in both the People’s Summit and side events at Rio+2o.  This week’s Inclusive Cities Changing Cities, Changing Lives story, Waste Pickers Take the Global Stage, tells the history of how waste pickers have been organizing global action on climate change and decent work for the past 3 years.

Here’s an excerpt:

Impact: The arrival of a strong, prepared and articulate movement of waste pickers to the UN climate change talks shifted perceptions. Prior to these events, waste pickers were invisible, both in relation to their role in urban environmental management, and in the negative impacts they experience from the extension of waste-to-energy projects. Waste pickers gained new levels of influence and visibility with support from Inclusive Cities and a growing alliance of organizations supporting their struggle.

The millions of people worldwide who earn a living through waste picking contribute to the conservation of natural resources and energy while reducing air and water pollution. They also help to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the reuse of materials. However, they are fighting for their livelihoods in the face of privatization of waste management regimes and “waste-to-energy” schemes that favour corporate incinerators that literally burn up potential earnings for these informal workers.

Waste pickers have been organizing around the globe to present a strong front as they strive for recognition of their significant environmental contribution. Through its collaboration with the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers and Allies, WIEGO has been providing technical, logistical and communications support to waste pickers from Latin America, Asia and Africa. This support has helped a previously unrecognized workforce to step out of the shadows and make itself heard on the world stage. Through waste pickers’ attendance and action at a series of high-profile international events, waste pickers have garnered the attention and respect of decision makers.