The updates we publish in this newsletter are by waste pickers and allies. Sometimes we re-post directly from what individuals or groups have shared via social media, websites or emails; sometimes we edit, organize and translate. The goal is to disseminate information from waste pickers across borders. As usual, we invite waste pickers’ organizations and allies to keep sending updates of their struggles and victories. We want to make this information-sharing platform more inclusive and participatory! This process is supported by Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing.
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Dear waste pickers and allies,
From negotiating a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution, to vital discussions ahead of our elective congress, we have had an industrious year thus far. We want to share with you our main activities during the first semester of 2023.
Welcome to our round-up of some of the main activities of our first semester. Some of the highlights include the first in-person international coordination meeting held in Nairobi, Kenya. This is part of the ongoing effort of the Acting Working Committee, the driving force behind building our International Alliance over the past few years.
On March 1st, we marched with our comrades from the Dandora landfill (Kenya) to commemorate the memory of our fellow waste pickers who lost their lives in Colombia in 1992.
In May and June, we participated in the main international conference we are trying to influence over the years: the INC-2 Plastic Treaty negotiations in Paris and at the ILO Conference in Geneva. We are happy to share with you our main reports and posts. We invite you to read about our prospective affiliates’ ongoing struggles and activities, as we work towards organizing our first elective congress next year.
Lucia Fernandez, Acting Working Secretary,
On behalf of IAWP Communications Team
The International Alliance of Waste Pickers’ participated as an active voice in the United Nations Environmental Assembly, which is in the process of negotiating a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution. We ask for recognition and direct participation in national laws and regulations related to plastic waste management. We also call for fair compensation, a just transition to new systems, reduced use of toxic substances in plastics, and the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility norms. These measures aim to acknowledge waste pickers’ historical contributions, protect their rights, and promote effective and sustainable plastic waste management practices.
In June of this year, the 111th International Labor Conference (ILC) was held in Geneva, Switzerland, where international labor standards and changes in the world of work were discussed. The International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP) participated through delegates from Nigeria and Brazil, focusing on achieving a just transition to environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all. They emphasized the importance of integrating waste pickers into waste management systems and collaborating with governments to ensure fair prices, better working conditions, health care and legal recognition. This initiative was carried out in conjunction with WIEGO and other unions of the informal economy. The proposed resolution on Just Transitions highlights the universal importance of a just transition in all countries and economic sectors, both formal and informal, and recognizes the need to create an enabling environment for social and solidarity economy entities.
Waste picker representatives from 19 countries gathered in Nairobi (Kenya) to participate in the International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP) Coordination Meeting. The general objectives were to discuss the interim work towards their Elective Congress; to promote connection and trust-building among waste pickers from the different regions, and to celebrate International Waste Pickers Day on March 1st.
During the march, which welcomed hundreds of waste pickers and allies, they highlighted that International Waste Pickers Day is a day to memorialize the struggles of waste pickers for recognition, and dignity across the planet.
Afterward, the Kenyan National Waste Pickers Association held a press conference at the Dandora Community Center by government officials, IAWP leaders and media representatives Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, Executive Secretary, Secretariat, INC for Plastics Pollution, and Nao Takeuchi, Waste Management Expert from UN-HABITAT were present at the press conference and addressed the almost 200 waste pickers that attended the event.
During the meeting with the government of Kenya and South Africa, for a Just Transition Initiative in plastics treaty process, both governments agreed to organize a joint event in Paris along with IAWP on Just Transition and approved that waste picker leadership of IAWP will draft the concept note to be shared in the Paris event for recruiting countries.
Waste picker organizations from across the world shared inspiring and empowering messages to celebrate the date.
Tyagya Shramika Sangha (TSS) gets registered as an union under Indian Trade Union Act 1926 (India)
Tyagya Shramika Sangha (TSS) was registered as an union under Indian Trade Union Act 1926. The members are waste pickers and other workers in the informal waste recycling sector. This was an almost 6-month process to make bylaws, which involved getting 50 leaders from across the state of Karnataka to dialogue, debate, and finally agree on the final bylaw. It was an empowering experience for all the workers involved in the process.
The article features waste pickers from the Philippines and sheds a light on how they are working with government officials to set up systems to segregate and collect organic waste and establish facilities to compost it.
Discover in this video the impact of responsible recycling with the story of Laura, who chairs the National Network of Waste Pickers of Ecuador in the series “Mujeres Aguas Arriba” from BID – Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo.
The waste pickers at the Cerro Patacón landfill (Panama City), who for years have been engaged in the recycling activity, request the National Government of Panama the right to be considered in the waste management activities at the dumpsite. The Members of the National Movement of Waste Pickers of Panama (MNRP) say that they should be considered in the approaches, negotiations and implementation of the corrective measures to be assumed by the waste management company that will take over (and is awarded a new contract) for the correct treatment of the landfill’s waste.
There is uncertainty regarding the permanence of waste pickers in their work at the landfill, and there is a threat of expulsion without solving their livelihoods. Read more in this news story.
The support from waste picker groups comes in following the latest events at the Cerro Patacón dumpsite (Panama), with waste pickers not being able to work, and due to the lack of human resources and support for the workers.
AMTDDO Mali meets with the Prime Minister and other government officials
A delegation from the Association Malienne des Trieuses de Dechets sur les Depots d’Ordures (AMTDDO) was received by the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, the Minister of State, a spokesman for the Government, and the former interim Prime Minister, Mr. Abdoulaye Maiga. They discussed the Nairobi meeting, the abusive closure of some depots in Bamako initiated by some municipalities and also the involvement of AMTDDO in all decisions concerning waste. The delegation came out very satisfied with the exchange. Promises were made for the involvement of AMTDDO and a meeting very soon between AMTDDO, the mentioned Ministry and the Town Hall of the Commune V on the closure of the Olymp depot.
Africa Regional meeting
In late February, 33 waste pickers representatives from 12 countries participated in the Africa Regional Meeting to discuss and develop strategies for organizing Africa as a region! Other objectives were to identify key challenges faced by the current MBOs and priority topics for the region to address, to understand the global issues and its implications on the region, and to develop a strong network of Waste Pickers Leaders in the existing prospective affiliates of African MBOs that are part of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers.
In August 2019, a landfill in Accra, Ghana, caught fire, and about 300 waste pickers had to be relocated without a resettlement plan. The situation worsened in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the landfill was decommissioned without consulting the waste pickers. As a result, the workers were left without safeguards or alternative livelihoods. This situation provided further impetus for the development of doorstep waste collection proposal and a cooperative, which was officially registered as the Green Waste Pickers Cooperative Society on August 15, 2022. However, the cooperative still faces challenges in becoming an official waste collection contractor.
2023 has started at a great pace and we’re happy to share so many advancements with you all. Thanks for always supporting us!
The International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP) is an international union committed to advancing the rights and strengthening organizing of waste pickers. IAWP is in the process of becoming a formal entity, with its constitution approved by waste pickers’ movements in 34 countries around the world in October 2022 and will be hosting its first international elective congress to elect the duty bearers of the organization in 2024.