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

Asunción Paraguay

City Report: Interview with a local Waste Picker

A Conversation With: Lorenza Maldonado of Red Lacre

Personal Story

Lorenza began recycling when she was doing domestic service in a home. She would regularly collect her employer’s PET bottles in order to earn extra income. One year, in the summer, the family she worked for went on holiday and to stay afloat she joined the recyclers (a preferred term for waste pickers) who were active in her neighbourhood.

Official Waste Management System

Collection and disposal of waste is provided by the municipal government. Waste is then disposed in an open dumpsite managed by a sindicato, a cooperative of waste pickers who work in the dump. The waste picking cooperative is independent from Lorenza’s association, which is restricted from working in the landfill. The Equality Gender Department (Departamento de Equidad de Género) works with the informal recyclers, both assisting in the work of organizing and providing capacity building.Currently, Lorenza reports that there is no proposal in front of the municipality for incineration, however the municipal government is hoping to replace the open dump with a sanitary landfill that includes methane capture.

Informal Recycling System

Six associations collect recyclables, using a quasi door-to-door method – residents leave mixed waste in a bucket at the front door and the informal recyclers collect what they can sell; the rest of the waste is left in the bucket and collected by the municipality. Some residents, who the recyclers refer to as “clients,” accumulate specific types of materials and give them to the recyclers. Many transport goods with a two-wheeled cart. Others use horse drawn carts. And still other organizations, including Lorenza’s organization, have motorcycles that pull carts. Recyclers collect materials, bring them to their home, clean them, pack them, and classify them. Two of the six associations share one vehicle.Waste Collected: Food waste is collected for animal feed; cardboard; paper; mixed colored paper; magazine paper; newspaper paper; aluminum cans; heavy aluminum; transparent PET, green and blue PET, oil PET bottles; and hard plastic.

Waste Picker Organization

Lorenza represents the Asociación de Recicladores y Recicladoras Emprendedoras para el Progreso, which is comprised of 15 people. The group is one of the six associations that are under the Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Recicladores de Asunción.Two of the oldest organizations, Oñondivepa and Cansa, are registered and have their own space to accumulate and compress materials. These organizations sell directly to recycling companies. Prices are communicated to the smaller cooperatives by these two, registered organizations.

Current Central Issues

Lorenza’s cooperative needs space for segregation. She feels confident that this problem will be resolved soon as a result of changes expected in the local government in the upcoming elections. Additionally, there is a lack of social recognition that she feels would be resolved if the recyclers received legal identity, allowing them to coordinate with the local government; ultimately resulting in an inclusive waste management system.