Lucia Fernandez

Waste Pickers Program Coordinator

“The most heartfelt demands Latin American waste pickers have are very similar to the ones being discussed with recyclers in Africa and India, which are about the right to garbage, to own garbage as recyclable materials, not as waste, but as a good that has value for them. And there is a very strong war at the moment to determine who has the rights over that waste: if it belongs to the recyclers who have been working with this material for over 50 years or if it belongs to corporations who have also found out, though a bit late, that there is a lot value in that waste."


inclusive and decentralized zero waste strategies, spontaneous recycling dynamics, small and large-scale networking amongst waste pickers

Since beginning work with WIEGO in 2007, Lucia has been instrumental in ensuring effective waste picker representation at global conferences such as the United Nations Climate Change Conventions from 2009 until 2012, Rio+ 20 (2012) and the International Labour Conference (2013). She has also helped establish major waste picker conferences on regional and global levels, coordinating the First World Conference of Waste Pickers in Bogota, Colombia (2008), the Centro-American Conference of Waste-pickers in Managua, Nicaragua (2012) and the Global Strategic Workshop for Waste Pickers in Pune, India (2012), among others.

An international specialist on informal recycling, Lucia has worked for more than ten years with waste pickers’ organizations in over 20 countries. Her committed work assisting small cooperatives and trade unions in her native Uruguay and supporting large-scale networking has led to the creation of the Latin-American Waste Pickers Movement and the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers.

Lucia has applied her unique academic foundation, where urban planning and sustainable development come together to bring innovative solutions for sustainable and inclusive cities, to a research affiliation with the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT between 2011 and 2013. At MIT’s D-Lab Waste, Lucia also taught a course on informal recycling, where her knowledge of zero waste strategies was combined with a deep understanding of urban complex dynamics in the global south.

She holds an MA in Architecture on spontaneous recycling dynamics in the cities of Montevideo and Paris during the 19th century from the Ecole d'Architecture de Grenoble. She also holds a MA in Ethics and Sustainable Development from the Faculté de Philosophie de Lyon, France, on the intersection of tradition and modernity around waste management. Lucia originally studied and taught architecture at the Uruguayan University, where she conducted interdisciplinary research for the inclusion of waste pickers into municipal waste management policies.

In the News

2013. Out of India’s Trash Heaps, More Than a Shred of Dignity. The New York Times.

2013. Video: Integrating the Informal Waste Recycling Sector in Latin America. Be-Waste-Wise

2012. Video: Ciberbasura sin fronteras. Spanish Television RTVE.

2012. Audio: Garbage City and the Informal Economy. Peabody Museum.