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 Asso Amelior


Country France

November 12, 2015

Translated by Dico


On Tuesday, August 4, 2015, in Ménilmontant, Paris, away from a crowd still in shock, a man dressed in the uniform of the national police sat on the sidewalk and, with his round face in his hands, mourned the death of a 5 year old child. This child was hit by a truck while he and his sister were crossing the boulevard on the way to the Biffins market on the median strip separating the 11th and 20th arrondissement, on Place Jean Ferrat, where their relatives were trying to earn a few euros selling salvaged items in order to survive.

Over the years, and because of political inaction, Paris has become a modern Bastille for the descendants of rag pickers, in true Parisian tradition, stall-holders and street vendors of items collected through waste picking. In the European capital for curbsider dealings in salvaged goods, in one of the worst parts of Europe in terms of waste recycling, wastepickers-sellers, Biffins and buyers, living mostly below the poverty line, receive no assistance in their efforts in finding a spot in organized authorized areas where sales activity can conducted locally with dignity. Instead, waste pickers are forced to work in conditions made increasingly more difficult or even violent and dangerous, with no concern for fundamental human rights, both literally and figuratively.