The International Alliance of Waste Pickers is a union of waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries
Supported by Logo WIEGO


Country Turkey

September 16, 2016

This article is part of the series “Scenes from the Heart of Recycling”.


“We have been collecting waste in the streets since our childhood. We are an indispensable part of the waste management system. Without us waste management systems are doing close to nothing in terms of recycling.”

Important developments are taking place in Turkey. Waste pickers once completely invisible are raising their voices and vocalizing their demands by engaging with government agencies with the support of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

A recent “Workshop on Waste Pickers’ Access to Social Security through Cooperatives” took place in Ankara on 29 July 2016 at the ILO headquarters in that city which was jointly organized by this UN agency and the Ministry of Customs and Trade General Directorate of Cooperatives.

With the participation of representatives from ministries, the head of the ILO Cooperatives unit, many municipalities, members of the Association of Street Waste Pickers, and trade unions the event highlighted the role of cooperatives to ensure decent work. Here are some remarks from Turkish waste pickers:

“We demand support and incentives from municipalities to exist in waste management regulations.”

“We are ready to organize under cooperatives with approximately 2,000 members in Ankara.”

” We want to be free of those judging and disapproving eyes that are fixated on us while collecting waste in the streets.” 

We welcome the participants´ agreement that a roadmap for addressing the problems of waste pickers and in creating decent job opportunities is much needed. We hope that this important event will lead to cooperation between sectors so that two of today´s major problems can be tackled: the environmental and the social agenda. Recycling with social inclusion is the way to human and sustainable development.