The International Alliance of Waste Pickers is a union of waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries
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Marlen Chacon, wastepicker from Costa Rica.

Marlen Chacón in Durban, South Africa

The world is full of professionals, and given their importance, many countries have dedicated a day to recognize their respective work and allow their society to celebrate it as a way to commemorate their contributions.

Waste pickers are part of that professional class, even if they do not wear a suit or the latest fashion dress, or do not dine at expensive restaurants; the waste picker is a professional in his/her own right and as such deserves to be rewarded with a day to celebrate himself/herself.   Compared to the days allotted to other professions, the Waste Picker Day is not only dedicated to those who struggle daily, but also to those who died for that struggle as a result of an accident or simply due to the discrimination that exists in society against waste pickers.  This homage is dedicated to those who, in order to put food on the table, struggled to get a plastic bottle and other materials to get some money; it was his/her destiny to be a waste picker, and that is what he/she learned.  This is our day, and even if I did not have to be working at a landfill, I still had to work at the collection center or warehouse in order to earn my living and compete with other tenders who have what we lack: money.  This is why I say that this day is not only for the grassroots waste picker, but also an opportunity to promote recycling programs such as ours, which is a model that we are trying to disseminate around the world; female recyclers are also waste pickers, and we are fighting to both have access to decent work and to keep it.  Both the informal and the formal worker must defend their rights as productive persons, and as workers who are providing a solution for the big problems that municipalities, and the entire world for that matter, have.  More than just a Waste Picker Day, this is a day to express a debt of gratitude to our predecessors who started this trade years ago; it is time to remember them with pride, and we should never forget those who were here even before we were born.  We must seek that the informal worker changes his/her status, but not his/her profession.  To all the guardians of our planet Earth and to the more than 20 million waste pickers around the world: Happy Waste Picker Day!  I thank God for my work as a waste picker and I request all governments to guarantee equality of opportunities in order to achieve a better standard of living for all.  CONGRATULATIONS, COMRADES IN THE STRUGGLE!

I call for a prayer in honour of the children, women, men, and the elderly; for all those who are no longer with us because they died fighting the waste picker battle, and in their memory we shall struggle to reach our dreams, as they are always with us.