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 Sonia Dias, WIEGO


Country Brazil

October 21, 2015

Translated by Deia 10/19/2015

maputo, mozambique.

In his book Invisible Cities, Itálo Calvino writes of the imaginary city of Ândria and the character virtues of its inhabitants that are worth mentioning: “…self-confidence and prudence. Convinced that every innovation in the city influences the sky’s pattern, before taking any decision, they calculate the risks and advantages for themselves and for the city and for all worlds.”

In order to turn the ecological prudence of the imaginary city of Ândria into a reality, it is necessary to include the multiple perspectives and voices of civil society actors – both in the public and private sectors. This effort must be led by reflection and action towards the creation of a new world. A world which makes other types of cities visible – cities where the principles of solidarity and socio-environmental prudence prevail.

We are living a dramatic moment in the history of humanity, in an increasingly consumerist society where the severity of the current socio-environmental crisis urges us to rethink our development model and our cities, to reconsider our stereotypes and assumptions and to give new meaning to our ideas and opinions.

The Sustainable Development Goals that substituted the earlier Millenium Development Goals are a call to action. In this sense, it is important to identify what the existing possibilities for transforming waste are. Furthermore, we must also consider how cities will respond to the dreams of full citizenship and inclusion of those who live off our garbage (or what is leftover from our voracious consumerism): the waste pickers. Waste pickers, by giving new value to the discarded waste of a society entrenched in consumerism, are at the “heart of recycling” since they are the links that permit us to reinvent possibilities.

The series “Scenes from the Heart of Recycling”, coordinated by Sonia Dias, WIEGO’s waste specialist, aims to highlight through short texts and videos the challenges that waste pickers around the world are facing today. The series also aims to share projects that highlight cooperation, partnership and integration in cities that are working hard to promote social inclusion. The series does not intend to deeply analyze these dynamics, but rather to document important issues, challenges and experiences that could, in the future, be material for case studies and research.

See the first post from the series: “Scenes from the fight for inclusion in Buenos Aires, through the eyes of women waste pickers”