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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4th Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) on Plastic Pollution in Ottawa

Ottawa, Canada, April 23-29, 2024


The International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP) participates in the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) meeting on plastic pollution in Ottawa.

A delegation from the International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP) will be attending the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) to develop an international, legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.


WHO: The IAWP will have 11 delegates from 8 countries attending, including Chile, Brazil, Ghana, South Africa, India, Canada, USA and Italy.

WHEN:  April 23 – 29, 2024 

BACKGROUND: The United Nations is in the process of negotiating a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution. This treaty aims to address all stages of the plastic life cycle, including design, production, and disposal. The decision to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) was made on March 2, 2022, during the fifth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) held in Nairobi, Kenya. The committee’s mandate is to advance the development of a legally-binding international agreement on plastics.

The International Alliance of Waste Pickers participates as an active voice in the UNEA Plastics Treaty process. We advocate for recognition and direct participation in national laws and regulations related to plastic waste management, and call for fair pay and a just transition to new systems. 

Our demands:

  • Ensure that Just Transition is included in the preamble, scope and section on waste management, as well as in places where it already exists (like the EPR section)
  • Retain the mention of waste pickers throughout the text.
  • Include definitions for waste pickers, just transition, and workers in informal and cooperative settings. 

These measures aim to acknowledge waste pickers’ historical contributions, protect their rights, and promote effective and sustainable plastic waste management practices.

See our specific recommendations for the treaty text here.

Follow our Twitter @globalrec_org for live updates.


Recommendations for Zero Draft

These are our recommendations for member states.

Recommendations on Section II, Part 12 on Just Transition

Recommendations on Section II, Part 9 on Waste Management

Recommendations on Sections III and IV

Recommendations on Revised Just Transition text

What we are doing at INC4

April 21st: Preparatory Meetings & Action with Allies

As part of the IAWP’s preparatory meetings in advance of the INC4 negotiations, delegates participated in planning sessions with allies from EJCAP, GAIA, and Teamsters. Waste pickers joined a demonstration organized by Break Free From Plastic, where they presented their demands within the revised Zero Draft text for a Plastics Treaty.

The IAWP delegation emphasized at a coordination meeting with the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC):

“Recycling is not a standalone solution. The reduction of plastic waste is [also] a necessary measure in order to end plastic pollution. […] Waste pickers have for years been providing a solution through our work. We need to separate the economic needs of waste pickers with the discussion around the plastics industry.”

April 22nd: Meeting Government Delegations & Participating in the Government of Canada Open Partnerships Event

The International Alliance of Waste Pickers met with the US congregational delegation, including Senators Gillibrand, Merkley, Welch, Whitehouse and Representative Huffman. The meeting addressed the issue of just transition in the Plastics Treaty negotiation process, the importance of mentioning waste pickers in the preamble of the revised zero draft and the IAWP’s upcoming Congress. Delegates also met with government delegates from the Nordic countries, the Latin American and Caribbean group of countries and the European Union.

In her remarks at the WWF and Government of Canada Open Partnerships event, Inger Anderson, Executive Director, UNEP mentions recognition of waste pickers and the need for a just transition among her 10 most important elements to be achieved by the Plastics Treaty:

“I’ve said this many times before, we need to have a just transition. A transition by including and accounting for the perspective of all stakeholders, including obviously the 20 million waste pickers who are and who make up the global sanitation workforce.”

Watch the Livestream here:

At the “Voices for an Inclusive Treaty” side event hosted by WWF and the Government of Canada, Marica Vázquez of Cooperative Les Valoristes joined representatives from the trade union movement, the Women’s Group on ending Plastic Pollution and the Global Youth Coalition on Plastic Pollution. During the event, Marica highlighted the importance of waste pickers’ participation in the Plastics Treaty negotiations and why the concept of a just transition is fundamental. She emphasized that the recognition of waste pickers in this international instrument could in turn influence national policies:

“There is no better tool [to ensure a just transition] than granting waste pickers recognition in the policies, norms and laws that affect them.”

April 23rd: Waste Pickers & Just Transition Mentioned Widely during Opening Plenary Interventions

With the official INC4 negotiations and proceedings officially kicking off, the IAWP delegation and allies monitored opening remarks from governments, allies and the United Nations Environment Programme. We were pleased to hear supportive remarks from Inger Anderson, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

“Waste pickers” and “just transition” were also mentioned in the opening plenary remarks by the Government of Brazil, Ghana on behalf of the Africa group, Indonesia on behalf of Asia Pacific, Malawi on behalf of the High Ambition Coalition, and Uruguay on behalf of GRULAC. Waste pickers were also mentioned in plenary speeches made by the International Trade Union Congress, and the children and youth delegation. Supportive comments about a just transition for workers in the informal economy were also made by the representative from the International Labour Organization.

At one of the most important side events for waste pickers during the INC4, representatives including Francois Gendron (Cooperative Les Valoristes, Canada), Indumathi (ISS, India), Pietro Luppi (RETE ONU, Italy), Severino Lima Jr (MNCR Brazil), Soledad Mella (ANARCH Chile) shared successful experiences in incorporating waste pickers as door-to-door waste management service providers, outlined the need to recognize and regularize waste pickers in the reuse and repair economy, to incorporate waste pickers into solid waste management systems, and the overall need to reduce plastic waste (including eliminating single-use plastics).

Speakers also included Adalberto Maluf (National Secretary for Environment and Environmental Quality of Brazil) who shared how Brazil’s legal and policy framework has evolved to support waste pickers. Representatives from the Avina Foundation shared how they had worked with the Brazilian waste picker cooperative movement to begin piloting a calculator tool to measure the triple impact of waste pickers’ work. The event “The Last Frontier: Waste Pickers Against Environmental Contamination of Plastic Waste” was co-organized by RedLacre, the IAWP, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change of Brazil, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, and the AVINA Foundation.

In advance of the start of the negotiations process, the IAWP delegation met with UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen where they had an opportunity to share their demands and concerns related to the Revised Zero Draft. During the meeting, Inger encouraged the delegation to maintain their voice and presence in the negotiation process:

“Your presence, your voice, your activism is what will make this [Treaty negotiations] process work. Be engaged and continue to be loud.”

April 24th: Field Visit to Cooperative Les Valoristes in Montreal

April 25th: Waste Pickers call for a Just Transition

As negotiations continued, delegates began to discuss the existing “Just Transition” section of the revised zero draft of the Treaty. The IAWP continued its advocacy, sharing their recommendations for the just transition section with government delegates. The IAWP was represented at an ILO-hosted event on just transition. The event had three parallel panels with representatives from government, industry and labour and civil society. Barbra Weber, Ground Score Association (USA) spoke on a panel on behalf of the IAWP alongside representatives from the Avina Foundation, the international trade union movement and the INC-4 youth delegation. Barbra emphasized the importance of waste pickers’ protagonism as part of the transition towards a more sustainable materials and reuse and repair system.

The IAWP were also invited to meet with allies from the global trade union movement and the ILO. Each delegation shared their priorities for the negotiations and discussed how to build solidarity and unity around common demands. Delegates agreed to advocate for a transition which includes all workers throughout the plastics supply chain and which protects their rights, health and safety and promotes decent work opportunities. Delegates also discussed the potential to collaborate on just transition initiatives in other spaces, both within the ILO and at the local/national/global level.

April 26th: Addressing the INC4 Plenary

The IAWP delegation met with members of the Canadian delegation where they had the opportunity to share information on the experience of waste pickers in Canada, and information on EPR laws which incorporate waste pickers (such as the case of Chile). They also met with UNEP staff to discuss financing mechanisms for funding the implementation of the Plastics Treaty. Finance mechanisms which provide funding directly to waste pickers and their organizations are likely to be a core demand as the IAWP prepares for INC5.

Importantly, the IAWP delegation was able to address the INC4 plenary, sharing specific recommendations on sections of the draft Plastics Treaty text on just transition, extended producer responsibility and waste management.

April 27th

At the “Plastics and Colonialism” Press Conference, we stood in solidarity with indigenous peoples. Waste pickers, indigenous peoples and other communities are disproportionately impacted by plastic pollution and climate change. This INC4 has been an opportunity to strengthen our collective struggle for a just transition which leaves no one behind!

April 28th & 29th

In the final days of the INC4 negotiations, the IAWP delegation was invited to provide feedback on their experiences in the Plastics Treaty negotiations to Mme. Julie Dabrusin, Parliamentary Secretary, Environment and Climate Change Canada. Waste pickers also continued to show solidarity at “Voices of Abya Yala Indigenous Peoples in the Plastics Treaty” – an event focused on exploring how indigenous knowledge systems can contribute to advancing the Plastics Treaty, and potential solutions to tackle the plastics crisis.


IAWP’s Vision for a Just Transition for Waste Pickers under the UN Plastics Treaty

IAWP’s Vision for a Just Transition for Waste Pickers under the UN Plastics Treaty. Front page of the report.
The IAWP position paper outlines the essential steps that need to be taken to ensure that the transition to a circular economy for plastics is fair and inclusive for all workers, particularly waste pickers. These steps include:

  • Recognizing and formalising the role of waste pickers in the plastic waste management system.
  • Providing social protection and decent work conditions for waste pickers.
  • Investing in training and capacity building for waste pickers.
  • Ensuring that waste pickers have a meaningful say in the design and implementation of plastic waste management policies and programs.

Waste pickers are essential to the global plastic waste management system. They collect and sort recyclable materials, which helps to reduce pollution and conserve resources. However, waste pickers often work in hazardous conditions and are denied basic labour rights.

Access the position paper