Waste Picking

Why Support Organizing?

Millions of the world’s workers are waste pickers – workers who collect, sort, process, and sell what others have cast aside. They divert tons of materials from landfills and reduce emissions at the same time they save cities money.

Yet, their working and living conditions can be deplorable. They face low social status and can be ignored within public planning processes. Their livelihoods are threatened by waste-to-incineration plants and by cities that privatize waste services.

But when waste pickers form organizations like cooperatives, associations, companies, unions, and micro-enterprises, they can:

  • work with cities to be included in solid waste management plans
  • help cities lower C02 emissions by avoiding incineration and waste-to-energy technologies
  • help cities more effectively reduce the quantities of waste entering the waste stream
  • reduce dependence on virgin materials
  • achieve improved income and quality of life
  • better working conditions and consequent better health
  • prevent harassment and violence
  • eliminate child labour from waste picking


Organizing Globally, Nationally, and Locally

Waste picker organizations throughout the world are advocating for safer working conditions, integration into solid waste management systems, remuneration for services, gender parity, and policies that respect, rather than hinder, their work. They also advocate for better local, national, and global environmental protections.


Tons of Resources

WIEGO and other organizations have been developing tools and publications highlighting the importance of organizing and understanding waste picker’s role in mitigating climate change: