The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers is a networking process supported by WIEGO, among thousands of waste picker organizations with groups in more than 28 countries covering mainly Latin America, Asia and Africa.
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December 12, 2009

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La Vanguardia, El ejemplo de Sushila y Nohra.

The estimated 15 million waste pickers in poorer countries are “the unsung heroes of climate,” according to Neil Tangri, an activist from San Francisco. A tourist, who leaves an airport from a capital city in Asia, Africa and Latin America and sees waste pickers like ants in mountains of garbage, might get frightened. But they recycle 80% of waste in poor countries, one of the reasons why their per capita emissions are, more or less, what rich countries should achieve in the coming decades to avert a catastrophe. “Reduce, reuse and recycle trash is the easiest and most effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Tangri.

It would be logical if Sushila and Norah were advising Yvo de Boer, Barack Obama, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in this summit. Because, as George Monbiot notes in his book Heat, How to stop the planet burning (RBA 2006), if we forget the imaginative ways of high tech and emissions markets, with its derivatives and underlying [substances], there is a crude reality. Monbiot recalls a conference in London in which he explained that an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions would probably be necessary to stabilize the climate, and someone in the audience asked: “How would England be after an 80% reduction in emissions?” And Mayer Hillman, veteran environmentalist, who was on the panel with Monbiot, said: “Well, as in the Third World.”

But far from asking waste picker’s advice, the summit is promoting market mechanisms, which remove them from the middle. Because under the system of Clean Development Mechanism (the well-known CDM) -created to allow rich countries to “offset” their emissions by financing the reduction of emissions from the poor- there are plenty of CO2 credits to finance new incinerators and underground landfills equipped with the latest technology to turn “trash into energy, i.e. mini power plants that convert waste and emitted methane gas into electricity. Several Spanish multinationals are benefiting -including one of Florentino Perez- which were created through waste management in Latin American cities. But there is no credit for waste pickers such as Nohra and Sushila, although we know that their work reduces CO2 compared to the hypothetical savings of plants financed by the CDM.