International Waste Pickers’ Day is celebrated on March 1 in memory of the massacre in Colombia in which 11 workers were brutally killed at the Universidad Libre de Barranquilla (University of Barranquilla). You can read more about this tragic event further down the page.
For the past 21 years since this tragic event, waste pickers/recyclers have continued fighting for recognition of their work. “There are no borders for those who fight,” is the slogan that symbolizes the struggle of the more than 15 million waste pickers,catadores, recicladores, pepenadores, churequeros, cartoneros, zabaleen, gancheros, buzos, barequeros, guajeros, minadores, thawis, cirujas, clasificadores, buceadores, recolectores who make a living from recycling in the world. It is with this slogan and the organization of waste pickers as the motor force that we celebrate the Global Waste Pickers’ Day.
Last year’s March 1 – International Waste Pickers’ Day was amazing. Many groups sent in their messages of solidarity by or before March 1st, many with lovely photos.
This year, waste pickers are mobilizing in memory of March 1st and we want this day to be seen and heard in the news and by society, and to become our day… A DAY FOR WASTE PICKERS!
Several activities are already planned:
- In Porto Alegre, Brazil, ASCAT waste pickers’ association will discuss the significance of this.
- In Bogota, Colombia, the waste pickers’ union will make a floral offering in memory of the dead. They are calling all waste pickers to bring big gallons for a demonstration to follow. They will also be doing a marathon gathering of signatures to send to the government to make sure it follows its laws and includes and compensates waste pickers.
- In Honduras, waste pickers will be coming together for the first time and working on the formation of their national movement.
- In Paraguay, a surprise activity will be held!
- In Chile, the National Movement is doing a social media campaign on facebook and twitter, with photos and statements. Some groups will be sending letters about the impact of incineration on waste pickers to consulates in various regions.They will also be sending press release to alert the media and society at large about this important day.
- In Argentina, the Movement of Excluded Workers (MTE) is organizing demonstrations in various parts of the city to demand that the municipal government respect its contract for the inclusive management of recycling.
We invite you to send by email email@example.com, share with @global_rec and Globalrec Facebook the following:
- Photos of demonstrations, marches and other events that you are planning for March 1.
- Messages of solidarity (written or video)
- Photos of your associations or cooperatives holding a sign in support of March 1 – International Waste Pickers’ Day
- Documentation of any other activities you will be engaged in on March 1.
There are no borders for those who fight! Long live the waste pickers of the world!!!
21 years since the massacre in Colombia
In March of 1992, in the Universidad Libre Seccional Barranquilla (Barranquilla University) in Colombia, 11 dead bodies were found. The victims had been beaten and shot. All of the victims were informal waste pickers, and they had been murdered by university employees.
The waste pickers had been tricked by university employees to enter the building with the intent of recycling. Once inside, they were beaten and shot with the purpose of selling their bodies for research and organ trafficking. A survivor who pretended to be dead lived to tell the police about what had happened. In memory of this massacre – and in reponse to poor working conditions that we struggle to improve, and to the hostility we face on many levels from society – we declare March 1 the Global Waste Pickers’ Day.
Waste pickers have made huge advancements, becoming recognized and valued, becoming independent and growing their solidarity. In the past, people who worked with recyclable materials were undervalued and disrespected. After years of organizing and growth, today waste pickers are recognized for the role they play in recycling and for being important social agents, through their associations, cooperatives, movements, unions. Their struggles have guaranteed work spaces and infrastructure, machines and equipment, social technologies but most importantly, national, continental and global alliances. We know there is much much more to do – but certain of our victory, we will continue to walk firmly together.
On this March 1st, we also remember that waste pickers are facing global threats – both against their organization and towards the environment. These threats include the privatization of solid waste, the closure of open dumps and landfills without the inclusion of waste pickers, and incineration. All waste pickers should understand, debate and fight against these threats. The waste pickers that are still not recognized should strengthen their struggles and seek the experience and support of waste pickers that have made significant advancements, sewing the fabric of solidarity that holds us together as a movement.
It’s with the strength of this struggle that we call on all waste pickers to participate in acts to commemorate March 1st – International Waste Pickers’ Day!!!
GlobalRec support team,
Contributions from Alex Cardoso, waste picker with the National Movement of Brazilian Waste Pickers (MNCR)