IAWP convenes in Kenya to commemorate waste picker massacre and demand workers’ rights
01 Mar 2023 --- Today, on International Waste Pickers’ Day, the International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP) is bringing together leaders from 19 countries to the alliance’s first major event in Nairobi, Kenya.
The general objectives are to discuss the interim work toward a waste picker’s “Elective Congress” and to promote connection and trust-building among waste pickers from the different regions.
“March 1 commemorates waste pickers who lost their lives on this day in the Universidad Libre De Barranquilla Colombia in 1992,” IAWP shares.
“[Over] 11 years ago, waste pickers were invited to the university under the pretext of receiving recyclable materials. Once inside the campus, they were beaten and shot to death and their bodies were to be used for research and organ trafficking.”
IAWP and Kenyan National Waste Pickers Association are hosting a march to raise the visibility of thousands of waste picker families worldwide to commemorate the massacre.
Recognizing informal recyclers
IAWP shares that more than 20 million people globally contribute to the economy as informal waste workers. “Through the march, they highlight that International Waste Pickers’ Day is a day to memorialize the struggles of waste pickers for recognition and dignity across the planet,” the alliance asserts.
“It is the day to mark the achievements of waste pickers associations, organizations and unions and the IAWP.”
Waste pickers are marching for six main demands from the national and county governments in Kenya and governments around the world. They want formal recognition of their occupation and a mandatory right to access valuable waste for their livelihoods.
Moreover, waste pickers should be paid fair and better prices for recovering and reclaiming recyclable and reusable materials. Affordable, comfortable, quality housing for all waste pickers and their families should be provided.
The pickers also want governments to give waste management tenders to waste pickers, run enterprises and organizations, in addition to health and life insurance for all waste pickers and their families.
Lastly, IAWP says the dumpsites should not be closed before providing sustainable and regularized livelihood opportunities for waste pickers.
In December, at the UN International Negotiating Committee (INC) for a global plastics treaty, 19 UN member states officially recognized waste pickers as formal stakeholders for the first time.
Dignifying waste pickers
IAWP details that waste pickers represent the largest workforce in the recycling chain and recover a higher proportion of recyclable materials than formal waste management systems.
“Through their work in recovering recyclable and reusable materials, waste pickers – who are often discriminated against and face stigma for belonging to poor and marginalized groups, working classes, oppressed castes, ethnic, religious and racial minorities, indigenous peoples, climate and war refugees, and survivors of violence and substance abuse – play a major role in reducing plastic pollution and carbon emissions,” it says.
Post the march, the Kenyan National Waste Pickers Association will hold a press conference with the participation of government officials, leaders of the IAWP and representatives of the media at Dandora Community Centre, followed by a tree plantation at Dandora Hip Hop City.
As part of the week’s activities, waste pickers also visited the Dandora dumpsite, which covers approximately 70 acres and is the destination of about 1,100 metric tons of solid waste generated daily by Nairobi’s population.
The dumpsite sustains the livelihoods of approximately 3,000 waste picker families. They recover plastic, food, clothes, paper and bottles to sell for much-needed income. “One of our biggest challenges here is access to health and education,” says Winnye and Joyce, national organizing secretaries of the Kenyan National Waste Pickers Welfare Association.
In February, the United Nations Development Programme and Hindustan Unilever Limited partnered to launch an Inclusive Circular Economy project to promote the social inclusion of Safai Saathis – or waste pickers – in India.
The waste pickers “are the invisible environmentalists and play a significant role in waste recycling in India. The social inclusion of informal workers is crucial for sustainable plastic waste management,” said Amitabh Kant, CEO at NITI Aayog (the chief public policy think tank of the Government of India).
Additionally, a recent report published by The Circulate Initiative revealed that India is estimated to have over 7,500 registered and unregistered recyclers who collectively recycle approximately 60% of the plastic waste generated (or about 5.6 metric tons per year).
PackagingInsights also delved into the gender pay gap in global waste picking amid female discrimination and disease concerns.
“A gender analysis of official data in Brazil’s annual social information survey database concluded that men in waste picking earn much more than women,” Sonia Dias, sector specialist for waste pickers at Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing, told us.
“This is due to many constraints that women pickers face, which include the burden of childcare and difficulties in accessing high-value materials due to constraints posed by their male counterparts.”
By Radhika Sikaria
To contact our editorial team please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.