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.
- The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers is a networking process WIEGO has supported since 2008. GlobalRec consists of thousands of waste picker organizations from more than 28 countries mostly found in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Global Rec has provided the means for waste pickers from to offer real solutions to climate change at UN events on Climate Change.
- Local and national organizations KKPKP (India), ARB (Colombia) and MNCR (Brazil) played an active role at the 2013 International Labour Conference: Sustainable Development, Green Jobs, and Decent Work.
- In Bogota, Colombia, the waste pickers’ association ARB has led a long struggle to include its members in Bogota’s solid waste management plans. Waste pickers recently received their first payments from the city for their services.
- In Pune, India, the waste picker cooperative SWaCH has reduced the city’s emissions by over 52,000 kg/year at the same time they’ve improved the working conditions and the livelihoods of their members.
- Belo Horizonte, Brazil has partnered with organizations like ASMARE and Redesol in selective waste collection. This is part of a wider program that includes composting, envrironmental education, and a recycling program for contruction waste
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:
- Informal Sector Integration and High Performance Recycling: Evidence from 20 Cities (WIEGO Working Paper No. 23) analyzes and contextualizes informal valorization in low- and middle-income countries and provides recommendations for implementing inclusive recycling.
- Carbon Finance for Waste Picker Organizations looks into the feasibility and requirements of accessing carbon finance through three sources – the UNFCCC Clean Development Mechanism (CDM); Voluntary Carbon Markets; and the Green Climate Fund.
- GAIA No Burn’s On the Road to Zero Waste: Successes and Lessons from Around the World offers case studies of zero waste models in cities around the world that are enjoying significant cultural, climatic, social, economic and sanitation befits from their adoption of various elements of zero waste.