From June 19th to the 21st, the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA) held its national meeting in Johannesburg. 80 waste pickers who are serving as landfill coordinators attended, from all over the country. There were seven waste picker leaders from different provinces. Facilitators from three organizations were there to support the meeting. “There has been progress since the mid-2000s,” said Musa Chamane, a waste campaign manager with GroundWork, an organization that works closely with SAWPA. “Conditions have been slowly changing for the better.”
In April, officials from the South African Department of the Environment were in Brazil and Colombia to learn about inclusive solid waste management. They visited waste pickers’ movements and cooperatives and spoke with NGOs and city officials. “We are particularly encouraged by the participatory aspects. This is something that resonates with South Africans,” Cobbinah said.
The South African government visits Brazil and Colombia to learn about participatory waste management
In the beginning of April of this year, officials from the South African Department of the Environment (chemical and waste management branches) were in Brazil and Colombia to learn about inclusive solid waste management.
A meeting for exchanging and sharing experiences was held on March 1st, 2013, in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo in honor of Global Waste Pickers’ Day. Leaders of RECRED, the nascent waste picker’s network in the DRC, got together to discuss three main issues: network activities, health care, and how to strengthen the sector. It was noted that since the first steps towards a national network of waste pickers were taken in October of 2012, a few associations have been cooperating and have made contact with local authorities. The participants discussed the need for appropriate protective equipment at work as well as health insurance. There is a need to create cooperatives for access to microcredit, as well as workspace for selling and storing materials collectively. This meeting allowed members of RECRED to consolidate in order to invite other waste pickers who work individually to join the network.
The Second Organizing Meetings with Waste Pickers was held in seven target cities in Nigeria. The purpose of the meetings is to support waste pickers’ organizing so they can better represent and protect themselves and have a platform to relate with members of the public, the government, waste dealers and other end users in a more organized way.
The 15,000 waste pickers of Bangalore, India, had an end of the year victory. Bruhat Bangaluru Mahanagara palike (BBMP), the local government, is going to provide social security benefits to the waste pickers.
As part of the organizational efforts from the Kenyan Alliance of Waste Pickers, a group from Dandora, Kenya, has started a project to raise pigs.
The second round of a workshop to support waste pickers organizing in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, was held in January of 2013. The Congolese Women’s Right League, a StreetNet affiliate, with support from WIEGO, organized an event that brought together 30 waste picker delegates from Bandundu, Bas Congo and Kinshasa.
Waste pickers in Kenya are fighting to be heard. It has been a slow process of building solid organisation but it is showing results.
In the towns of Nakuru, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nairobi many people view pickers as trouble makers, especially as gangs sometimes operate from dumps. In fact the waste pickers are earning an honest living by collecting, sorting and selling metals such as aluminium, copper and iron as well as plastic bottles and containers, cloth, bones and organic waste.
Waste pickers in the Global South have something to celebrate. After intense campaigning in the last two years by GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternative) and the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers, the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) (see “Information on CDM” below) will withdraw support to projects that cannot provide evidence that they are not harming recycling efforts.
A truly strong waste pickers’ organisation has a collective leadership that represents its members who are active and make democratic decisions. For all elements to work together an organisation needs clear objectives, structures and rules. It needs policies and procedures. All of these things must be in writing for all members to see and should be formally adopted by the members. This is the organisation’s constitution.
“These waste pickers from Kinshasa are very creative,” commented Wiego’s (Women in Informal Employment Globalising & Organising) Kapita Tuwizana. “Being so poor has made them think in imaginative ways.” They collect garbage such as plastic, cardboard, metal like any other waste pickers but they also make new things from this waste and sell it.
Michael Hanna Shukri is an Egyptian who is working hard on a new waste picker’s union. We spoke to him about his work and organization.
What is your background? I am a young Zabaleen, which is the name of Cairo’s informal garbage collectors who started working in Cairo 80 years ago. I am 23 and I have been working for ten years. I am a member of the waste picker union and sit on the Spirit of the Youth’s board of directors. Spirit of the Youth is an NGO working with young Zabaleen which has spearheaded a campaign to start a union and helped it with money. Read more
Juliene Mangni, is one of two waste pickers from African countries participating at Expocatadores. This is her first trip outside of Benin. She is the president of an association of 366 women waste pickers in her city of Cotonou, Benin. She and the other women waste pickers sell the plastics, cans and cardboards they collect at a large market. Juliene is trying to improve the situation for the waste pickers. They lack basic equipment for waste picking. Another major issue is that the local government doesn’t acknowledge the waste pickers and provides no support.