Waste Pickers and Human Rights

Waste Picker in Nicaragua

It is estimated that 20 million people worldwide depend directly on waste picking for their livelihoods. They work in landfills, open-air dumps or collect waste from garbage bags or containers located in public spaces. Waste pickers create considerable environmental, economic and social benefits in the cities where they work.

Two WIEGO programs - Law and Organization and Representation, have launched the project "Protecting the human rights of waste pickers in Latin America," an initiative in six Latin American countries aimed at supporting the efforts of waste pickers to advocate for improvements to their poor working conditions within a human rights framework. 

In this process, students from the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic will work with WIEGO and its partners (member organizations of waste pickers) in Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala to conduct research into the human rights violations which waste pickers experience. The conclusions of the study will form the foundation for a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the violations of the rights of informal recyclers and waste pickers.


  • Find additional information on the project in Spanish (encuentra más información sobre el proyecto en Español) 
  • Read more about waste pickers
  • Watch a video on waste pickers, the right to the city and privatization with David Harvey and waste pickers from Montevideo