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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Marlene Patricia Chacón Cubillo

Marlene Patricia Chacón Cubillo lives and works as a recycler in Escazu, a city outside of San Jose, Costa Rica. She is a member of the city’s recycling program, which has municipal support and is run mostly by women. She is one of the proud women recyclers there, representing 80 percent of the workforce.

Marlene began working as a recycler in 2001. She was always interested in environmental issues so when she learned about the possibility of recycling, she quickly became motivated to work in waste management. At the time, she earned very little and to work in an area that one enjoys and is passionate about was extremely important to her.

The hardest part of her work has been to create an ecological consciousness, a cultural paradigm shift. This work has paid off — the people of her community are now separating 80 percent of their waste. She and the other workers receive the city’s recyclable materials in their warehouse. They weigh, separate, classify, and sell directly to buyers and intermediaries.

“We need to support the recyclers who are in the process of organizing and formalizing, and in turn, for society,” she said. “We don’t want anything to hold us back from helping the environment and minimizing the impact of greenhouse gases.”

Reflection Poem by Marlene Patricia Chacón Cubillo

Look at me, I am sad
Ask me why, you don’t see my tears
They are dark, it’s not my imagination
it’s just that my heart beats, knowing that my destruction is so close,
and you can help me, hold my hand,
if I tell you, if you consider me a brother.

My legs are collapsing and I can’t walk anymore
And my hands are burnt by the sun, I feel I’ve arrived at an oasis
And I see that my eyes can no longer see
And there is still so much to prepare for those who will come
From now on I will wake up and will no longer
ask that you see my sadness but that you see my beauty
than you see my beauty rather than my sadness.