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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Law Report: Mexico

Waste Pickers in Mexico


Waste generation, like in most other Latin American countries, is steadily on the rise in Mexico. While the government grapples with the problems of infrastructure and effective disposal models, waste pickers in the country have been contributing to resource recovery and reuse.

Size and Significance

Industrial demand for recyclables in Mexico is strong, and the cooperative often buys materials from independent waste pickers in order to satisfy the demand.

Working Conditions

Waste pickers recover waste such as paper, cardboard, glass, rubber, plastics and metal arriving at the municipal dump each day. In Mexico City, for instance, dumpsite pickers must sell their pickings to their leader, who sells the materials to industry at a markup of at least 300 per cent. As a result, Mexico City dumpsite pickers usually earn incomes lower than the minimum wage, are forced to live around the dumps, and have a life expectancy of 39 years. Working conditions are as difficult as those of others in a similar situation on landfills in Latin America.


Working nearly 12 hours a day, the waste pickers makes less than a dollar a day.

Law and Policy

The Law, Ley General para la Prevención y Gestión Integral de los Residuos (General Law for the Prevention and Integral Management of Wastes) (the “Waste Law”) enacted in 2004, established one of the most progressive and comprehensive solid and hazardous waste laws.

Organisation and Voice

The Sociedad Cooperative de Seleccionadores de Materiales (SOCOSEMA) constitutes one of the most successful recycler co-operatives in Mexico. Formed in 1975, to counter the exploitation by middlemen, the cooperative was awarded a concession to the co- operative for the recovery of recyclables contained in the waste at the dump. The creation of SOCOSEMA saw the displacement of the middleman and the rise in incomes of the waste pickers by nearly tenfold.