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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Written by Red Lacre


Country Chile

August 31, 2013

foto: red lacre.

foto: red lacre.

On August 31, as part of the Red Lacre meeting held in Santiago, Chile, 15 delegates visited waste pickers in the Los Molles landfill in the city of Valparaíso, only a few days before its closure and the opening of a new one. The purpose of the visit was to show support and give motivation for local organizing and reintegration at the new landfill. The landfill has been open for more than 30 years. 100 waste pickers worked at Los Molles. The process of closure at Los Molles allows the majority of the full-time waste pickers there to continue working, with restrictions on hours, until the end of the year.

Concerned with the loss of livelihood for the waste pickers, the Movimiento Nacional de Recicladores de Chile, began supporting, together with the Fundación Casa de la Paz and a private recycling company, a capacity-building process for 67 waste pickers of Los Molles. This idea is that the group will transform into a cooperative.

“We all worked independently and no one knew that there was a movement of waste pickers,” said Manuel Ferreira, one of the waste pickers of Los Molles. “Now we are organizing to create a group and we are making advancements.” He said the group is working to obtain a warehouse space where it’s possible to work hygienically. He said it’s not possible to eat in the current location, nor wash hands as there isn’t a working bathroom. Finally, because of a lack of a professional workspace, recyclables get mixed with trash and “the buyers don’t even want to come here.”

The Red Lacre representatives shared experiences with the waste pickers of Los Molles, emphasizing the importance of becoming formalized as organizations and working collectively to achieve objectives. Jennyfer Méndez, of the National Association of Waste Pickers of Venezuela, said to the group of Chilean waste pickers: “We cannot act alone; It’s important that you are here. I see commitment and desire to move forward and improve your situation.”

David Narváez, of Red Lacre and REDNICA (the Nicaraguan network of waste pickers), said that the waste pickers of Los Molles can count on Red Lacre’s support.

Nohra Padilla, director of La Asociación de Recicladores de Bogotá (ARB), said, “Many eyes are watching to make sure that you move out of vulnerability, that each day ends with better conditions and those that are still young will tell their children that they succeeded in making their livelihood better with each day.”