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.
If you want to be part of the editorial committee or learn how to post your own updates on globalrec.org please write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear waste pickers and allies,
We are happy to share with you the 14th issue of “Struggles and Victories: Waste Pickers on the Frontline”.
Waste pickers are essential to successful, sustainable waste management (India) by Safai Sena (08/09/2015)
Safai Sena, a registered group of over 12,000 wastepickers, doorstep waste collectors, itinerant and other small buyers, small junk dealers, and other types of recyclers have sent a strong letter to Sri. Prakash Javdekar, Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change. They demand that the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2015 must take into account the services of 2 million wastepickers in the country who are an integral part of solid waste management, and keep cities clean and prevent us from drowning in our own waste. Their roles though mentioned in the draft rules, a sword hangs over the livelihoods of this informal sector as the Government is hell bent on promoting waste to energy plants all over India that compete for the same waste that the wastepickers recycle, at the cost of the environment that these plants heavily pollute. There are over 150,000 people in Delhi involved in recycling through collection, segregation etc. They recycle 20-25% of the waste in urban cities. They save 3.6 times more greenhouse gases than any project in India that gets carbon credits. Read the complete post.
Demands of waste pickers addressed to Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Karnataka (India) by Hasiru Dala (06/17/2015)
There are approximately over 20,000 wastepickers and an estimated 10,000 scrap dealers and other waste handlers in Bangalore (India). Their work has ensured that Bangalore recycles 1050 tonnes of waste, saving the city approximately 84 crores each year in collection and transportation of waste. These informal economy waste workers are also among the most vulnerable populations. Studies state that that a significant number of waste pickers are women who belong to marginalized populations. The studies have found a significant number of young, illiterate and economically and socially disadvantaged people engaged in waste picking in the city. In addition to traditional waste pickers, a significant proportion of the migrant population in the city is working with waste. The waste pickers’ access to food, water, sanitation, housing and health facilities in the city remains inadequate with the situation being worst among migrant waste pickers living in temporary settlements. The working conditions of waste pickers are deplorable. Safety gear is not a priority for formal economy waste workers and in the informal economy. Armed only with old shoes and clothes picked out from waste heaps and a stick to sort through trash, cuts and burns are every day realities which over a period of time become major injuries. Health and nutrition security is must for waste pickers to continue the work they are doing. Access the complete article with the demands they presented.
117 children of waste pickers receive government scholarships (India) by Hasiru Dala (06/23/2015)
117 children of wastepickers in Bangalore have received scholarships worth INR 216,450. The scholarship programme was initiated by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and is extended to all pre-matriculation students – children of parents engaged in ‘unclean occupation’. When the scholarship programme was rolled out, the government didn’t include waste picking as an occupation in the eligibility list for availing it. The consistent effort of Alliance of Indian Wastepickers led to the inclusion in the criteria. Many organisations across India are pursuing the case of inclusion at state and municipal levels. In Karnataka, it was the efforts of Hasiru Dala which bore fruit. Hasiru Dala facilitated scholarship application for 224 children and out of which 117 have received it with the amount INR 1850 per child. The scholarship is open to all children studying in government or private schools. Read the complete article (in English).
Pimpri-Chinchwad waste pickers win minimum wage battle (India) by Hasiru Dala (06/27/2015)
The members of KKPKP waste pickers’ union have been providing waste management services to the residents of Pimpri Chinchwad, India, for years now. The Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation dishonored their services by not adhering to Minimum Wage Act. This agitated the waste pickers. They protested and met with elected representatives. Further, a case was filed by KKPKP at the Labor department in July 2013, seeking statutory minimum wages for waste pickers. While the hearings and cross examination of the case proceeded, members continued to agitate for their dues, whilst asking for fairer contract terms. In response to clarification sought for proceedings of the case, Shri Hendre, Additional Commissioner, Labor Department stated that PCMC is liable to pay up to 10 times the amount due to waste pickers as penalty for not adhering to Minimum Wage Act. This forced PCMC to act. Not only have they published new tenders with provisions for Minimum Wages which will be awarded in a month, but they have also committed to part payment of dues as an interim relief to the waste pickers. Part payment towards 12 months of work, out of the 32 months worked has been transferred to the waste pickers accounts on 15th June. Read the complete article (in English).
On Environment Day, Delhi’s waste recyclers shared their message (India) by Safai Sena/Chintan (06/03/2015)
On Environment Day, Safai Sena, a registered organization of Delhi’s waste recyclers presented a memorandum to the Chief Minister, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. The memorandum was to chart out demands of kabaddis in Delhi and protest against the Government’s decision to choose waste-to-energy technology for waste management over the environment friendly recycling which is being practiced by around 1,500,000 informal sector waste workers and re-processors to keep Delhi clean. This will result in unemployment of small waste traders. The event started at 9 am with over 500 Kabaddiwallas and other waste recyclers from different locations of Delhi gathering at the Vidhan Sabha metro station Gate no. 2. They marched towards the Chief Minister’s residence and registered their protest by chanting slogans, carrying banners, placards and beating drums. At the Chief Minister’s residence, the waste collectors submitted their memorandum to the Chief Minister. Shri Arvind Kejriwal promised to look into their demands of access to waste through doorstep waste collection and committed to meeting them in a month’s time with a full action plan.
The Federation of Waste Pickers at the World Meeting of Popular Movements (Argentina) by FACyR (07/09/2015)
The 9th of July took place the second Meeting of Popular Movements at the Coliseo Municipal de Santa Rosita, Santa Cruz, Bolivia. With the assistance of thousands of delegates from over 40 countries, a panel on ”Employment” was conducted, this being one of the main focus of the WMPM besides “Lodgings” and “Land”. Different leaders and delegates from several countries, including men and women leaders of the popular movements, participated on the panel “From exclusion to the grassroots organization of workers”. On his speech, Esteban Castro said: “For us, at the CTEP, we see it like this: capitalism development plans leave many workers without jobs, so we had to create one. So we need [a] union organisation for all these workers, they will not go back to the same system that neglected them”. “Today we tell the corporations, go to hell! We don’t need you! We, as workers, know how to organize production, how to trade, and we have dignity, and most certainly Bolivia proved workers’ dignity. And there he is Evo Morales! There you have it, this people´s dignity!” concluded Castro. Read the full article (in Spanish).
Solidarity Agreement between Waste Pickers and Concierges (Argentina) by Federación Argentina de Cartoneros (FACYR) (10/04/2015)
The Single Trade Union for Concierges (SUTERH, by its initials in Spanish) and the Buenos Aires branch of the Argentine Federation of Waste Pickers (FACyR-CTEP by its initials in Spanish) signed a solidarity agreement for a “cleaner and healthier city with formal and decent work”. On October the 3rd a meeting took place bringing together over 200 concierges and urban waste pickers. During the event both exchanged experiences and walked around the recycling plant to see in detail the classification process carried out by waste pickers. The aim of the agreement is to get concierges and waste pickers to work together on waste management in order to protect the environment. Some of the key points highlighted by the delegates were the formalization and labour market inclusion with full rights, decent work, good working conditions, training, recreation, retirement and the right to unionize. The signed agreement implies working on four main aspects: raising awareness; segregation at source; they agreed Zero Waste wouldn’t be reached without waste pickers’ participation, as they are the ones who know more about the situation of waste in Buenos Aires; and last, consensus was made on the fact that the market can´t be left in charge of environmental policy, we have to secure quotas and minimum trading prices and avoid thousands of tons of trash ending up in landfills.
Scenes from the heart of recycling: a series (Brazil) by Sonia Dias, WIEGO (10/19/2015)
The series “Scenes from the Heart of Recycling”, coordinated by Sonia Dias, WIEGO’s waste specialist, aims to highlight through short texts and videos the challenges that waste pickers around the world are facing today. The series also aims to share projects that highlight cooperation, partnership and integration in cities that are working hard to promote social inclusion. The series does not intend to deeply analyze these dynamics, but rather to document important issues, challenges and experiences that could, in the future, be material for case studies and research. See the first post from the series: “Scenes from the fight for inclusion in Buenos Aires, through the eyes of women waste pickers”
Women waste pickers gathered with other social movements to share common experiences (Brazil) by mncr.org.br (09/29/2015)
Women waste pickers and other social movements gathered in the city of Osasco, São Paulo, on September 25th and 26th for the first Statewide Meeting of Women Waste Pickers. The meeting brought together 400 workers from 70 cities across the state, with the goal of sharing experiences and lessons about women’s rights and leadership in workplaces such as cooperatives and associations. Activists from other social movements were invited to attend, such as the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (Movimento de Trabalhadores Rurais), the Afro-Brazilian Women’s Movement (Coletivo Impulsionador da Marcha das Mulheres Negras), the Solidarity Economy Network (Rede de Economia Solidária), Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), among others. The waste pickers also participated in workshops about sexual diversity, violence against Afro-Brazilians, the division of labor in cooperatives, and hosting workshops for men about gender. Health, domestic violence, education, and the solidarity economy were themes present at the meeting. Professional recognition was another theme in the roundtable discussions. Women shared positive experiences getting contracts in their municipalities, but also shared the need for the training of women workers who may be developing their cooperatives and haven’t yet been contracted by the municipality. To conclude the meeting, the workers marched through the streets of Osasco with the objective of educating the population and bringing visibility to their advancements and demands. They also demanded gender equality. Access the original article (in Portuguese).
The World Meeting of Popular Movements discusses the right to a sustainable and just planet (Bolivia) by MNCR (07/10/2015)
On July 7th, representatives of thousands of social movements from around the world gathered in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, for the World Meeting of Popular Movements. The opening ceremony began with an unifying activity that focused on the control that multinationals have over our natural resources, land, water, and fire – and how these greedy corporations prioritize any means of production, using wealth, destruction and control, all for money. Meanwhile, millions of people around the world, mostly working class, survive on the scraps of capitalism. The activity was a reminder that popular movements have historically organized themselves and through struggle, freed themselves from this kind of control and have proposed new models based on the defense of nature and the inclusion of people who have a right to human dignity. Included in the debate were examples of resistance and struggle, from the leadership of women small farmers that have for many years organized resistance movements and grown healthy foods, resisting the multinational model. Alex Cardoso, a waste picker delegate with the Brazilian Movement (MNCR) who was present at the Meeting, stressed the importance of social movements unifying around causes, especially social and environmental causes. “As waste pickers, we not only fight for recycling but for the advancement of our people,” he said. Access the article (in Portuguese).
Brazilian waste pickers denounce misogynist violence (Brazil) by MNCR (07/02/2015)
It is with deep disappointment that we waste pickers, workers, mothers, and heads of families, denounce the intolerance and lack of democratic values that we now see displayed on car stickers. These images uphold a misogynist nation and violate not only the image of our female president but the image of a woman that won the elections in a legitimate way, and who represents our country. The debate happening now is not a political debate but one about gender – about acts that harm the rights of women. Never in the history of Brazil, with its history of atrocities committed by former presidents, has the honor and image of a president been so degraded, with sexist and cowardly arguments such as the ones that are being used against President Dilma Rousseff – a leader who helped restore of democracy in Brazil. We make public our denunciation of violence in any form and sexist, misogynist and cowardly political debates. We denounce the images that are being shared in our country’s popular media. Access the original press release (in Portuguese).
Open dumps and the environment: an intimate connection (Brazil) by Alex Cardoso, MNCR (06/30/2015)
Africa, Latin America, and Asia — historically devastated by wars and occupations — are now devastated by thousands of garbage dumps, which are huge producers of carbon dioxide. Besides receiving local garbage, dumpsites are a destination for waste from North America and Europe, responsible for the majority of the planet’s environmental degradation. Today, nearly all effective recycling is done by an army of more than 15 million waste pickers across the globe – more than 4 million in Latin America alone, according to the World Bank. In Brazil, there are more than 2,000 dumps that receive the waste of more than half the country’s municipalities as part of contracts with private companies that dominate and exploit recycling and the transportation of recyclables, with no concern for the environment. Municipalities, breaking national laws that have banned open dumps since 1980, continue to invest public money in a waste management model that incentivizes environmental destruction. As a result, only 3 percent of solid waste is officially recycled, disrespecting the work done by more than 1 million waste pickers, who recycle more than 98 percent of aluminum, 60 percent of plastics, and 40 percent of cardboard. Though ignored, waste pickers remain the largest environmentalists. As the National Movement of Waste Pickers (MNCR), we have fought for Popular Recycling, the only technological route that can guarantee the socioeconomic inclusion of waste pickers. Popular recycling defies concentration of wealth, social exclusion, exploitation and the environmental destruction upon which the current model is based, and aims to amplify the knowledge and participation of the society that produces solid waste.
Towards a solid organization of waste pickers in Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone) by Chris Bonner (WIEGO) (07/16/2015)
Aaron A Boima is an informal trader in Freetown, and the Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Traders Union (SLeTU). He is also the coordinator of eight informal economy workers’ unions affiliated to the central trade union federation, the Sierra Leone Labour Congress (SLLC). He spoke to Chris Bonner, WIEGO’s Organization and Representation Programme Director, about organizing waste pickers in his country, whilst at the International Labour Conference, June 2015, in Geneva: “In 2014 I began organizing waste pickers in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. I started small. Ten waste pickers from two dumpsites attended the first meeting. From there, I called meetings in four cities and at the end of this process 711 waste pickers were registered in four cities. 251 women and 460 men had participated in the discussions about their situation and why they need to be organized. They took a decision to form the Network of Waste Pickers of Sierra Leone (NEWAP-SL). However the Ebola crisis disrupted the organizing activities (…) As the Informal Economy Coordinator at SLLC, I plan to negotiate with the mayor and the Freetown City Council to provide assistance and/or alternative work for the affected waste pickers. As Aaron, I say, ‘Now is the time to revive the initiative and build a solid organization of waste pickers in Sierra Leone that can join the other eight unions, to be recognized and to bargain for their rights as an affiliate of the SLLC.’ I also see the importance of sharing information with other waste pickers in Africa and the rest of the world. Read the complete article (in English).
Pietermaritzburg drops the ball on sustainable jobs initiative (South Africa) by Musa Chamane, GroundWork (07/02/2015)
Fifteen waste recyclers brought a municipal waste management meeting to an hour-long standstill last Thursday at the Harry Gwala Stadium. Open to everyone residing within the uMgungundlovu Municipality, the municipality stated it could only accommodate two waste pickers — not 15. Representing 300 waste pickers from the New England Road landfill site, the 15 waste pickers were not budging until their concerns had been heard, again. Waste pickers have been waiting almost three years for progress on the construction of a materials recycling facility. In 2011, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs allocated R21 million to uMgungundlovu District Municipality with a condition to construct the facility within one year, otherwise funding would be withdrawn. The importance of the facility for the municipalities is job creation and more space at the landfill for non-recyclable items; for waste pickers, it is maintaining their sustainable livelihood, better working conditions off the landfill site and the potential to recycle more and earn more. In March, the district Mayor, Honourable Yusuuf Bhamje and Municipal Manager Sbusiso Khuzwayo, handed the project over to Msunduzi Local Municipality citing institutional challenges between the two municipalities. These challenges were not fully explained. Subsequent follow ups with Msunduzi Municipality have lead certain municipal officials reneging on the commitment taken up in the meeting. The waste pickers were thus thrown back to square one as the ball is thrown between the two municipalities. Read the complete article.
An interview with Thulisiwe Khumalo, woman waste picker and leader (South Africa) by Vanessa Pillay, WIEGO ORP Consultant (06/23/2015)
Thulisiwe started working on a dumpsite five years ago for Wetland Recycling – a company owned by a white man. In 2013, after three years of being subjected to irregular wages, she decided to leave the company and work on her own at another dumpsite. Soon thereafter, ten women waste pickers got together and tried to form a cooperative but their application to the municipality was rejected and the reason given by officials was that the members were “too old”. The group persevered and were eventually registered in April 2015 as a cooperative of 8 women and 2 men, called the Enhlosweni Coop. (Enhlosweni means place of intentions/hope/goals in isiZulu.) The group of women had to beg two men to join them because it felt like they were not making any progress in their engagement with the local government officials and that they were not being taken seriously as women. Although, as Thulisiwe explains, now that the men have joined them, they seem to be working very well together and share the responsibility for the success of their cooperative. Thulisiwe displays strong values of collectivism as she explains how the cooperative was formed and how they agreed to work together despite their initial registration challenges. The cooperative had received training from different government departments during their formative period and Thulisiwe acknowledged these training experiences for inculcating the strong values of collectivism the cooperative was founded on. Although the municipality provides basic ablution facilities at the dumpsite where Thulisiwe and her colleagues work, they still lack proper shelter where they could work and a safe storage space for their waste material. Access the complete article (in English).
Women waste pickers discuss strategies for recognition at a Cape Town workshop (South Africa) by Vanessa Pillay, WIEGO ORP Consultant (06/30/2015)
On May 26-27, 2015, 30 women waste pickers gathered at the Community House in Salt River, Cape Town. They gathered at a workshop facilitated by WIEGO in partnership with the International Labour Research and Information Group(ILRIG) to speak about the challenges they face as women waste pickers at home, in their workplaces and their organizations, and to explore what needs to change. Ten of the women travelled from cities and towns outside of Cape Town and most of them had never flown or been to Cape Town before. The women belong to the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) – a national association – and the local Cape Town organization, Siyacoca (which means ‘We are cleaning’ in isiXhosa). As they shared their experiences through interactive social mapping exercises, the women highlighted challenges they want to address, such as disrespect from neighbors and family, sexual harassment, rape, having to work with their children in unsafe conditions because childcare is unaffordable, and gender-based discrimination from local officials. Some of the ideas the women proposed included forming worker cooperatives, empowering women to speak out against harassment, fighting for recognition and access to benefits such as maternity leave. A highlight of the workshop was watching the recorded message to the group by Madalena Duarte, waste picker from a cooperative in Brazil. The women realized that although they live continents apart, their situation was very similar. Follow up activities have been planned to take this work forward. Access the complete article (in English).
The Biffins Inclusive and Sustainable Social Market (France) by Asso Amelior (09/09/2015)
On Tuesday, August 4, 2015, in Ménilmontant, Paris, away from a crowd still in shock, a man dressed in the uniform of the national police sat on the sidewalk and, with his round face in his hands, mourned the death of a 5 year old child. This child was hit by a truck while he and his sister were crossing the boulevard on the way to the Biffins market on the median strip separating the 11th and 20th arrondissement, on Place Jean Ferrat, where their relatives were trying to earn a few euros selling salvaged items in order to survive. Over the years, and because of political inaction, Paris has become a modern Bastille for the descendants of rag pickers, in true Parisian tradition, stall-holders and street vendors of items collected through waste picking. In the European capital for curbsider dealings in salvaged goods, in one of the worst parts of Europe in terms of waste recycling, wastepickers-sellers, Biffins and buyers, living mostly below the poverty line, receive no assistance in their efforts in finding a spot in organized authorized areas where sales activity can conducted locally with dignity. Instead, curbsiders are forced to work in conditions made increasingly more difficult or even violent and dangerous, with no concern for fundamental human rights, both literally and figuratively.
Safe and Sustainable Recycling: Protecting Workers who Protect the Planet (United States of America) by GAIA (06/23/2015)
Recycling is the right thing to do, but we need to make it safe for recycling workers. Recycling is a key approach for waste reduction and climate action that is used by cities across the U.S. with enormous environmental and economic benefits. But a new report finds that the actual work of sorting recycling can be unnecessarily hazardous to workers’ health and safety. Seventeen recycling workers died on the job between 2011-2013, and recycling workers are more than twice as likely to be injured on the job than the average U.S. worker. These high injury and fatality rates are a result of unsafe working conditions including exposure to hazardous items on the sort line, like hypodermic needles, toxic chemicals, and animal carcasses, and working around heavy machinery. By ensuring health and safety compliance across the industry, cities can protect workers who protect our planet. Read the full report.