Bogota Waste Pickers Celebrate

March 2013

Bogota Waste Pickers

In Bogota, the Mayor's Office launched a payment system for waste pickers in exchange for their services collecting and transporting recyclable materials. An event kicking off the historic payments at city hall´s auditorium was held on 21 March 2013. Waste pickers' leaders, independent waste pickers, city officials and the Mayor himself attended. There, the city government explained how waste pickers would receive payment for each tonne of collected and transported recyclables.

With an automated teller machine in the middle of the auditorium, the Mayor invited two waste pickers to do the demonstration. Each one of them sent a text message with their mobile phones to the bank branch in charge of doing the transaction. After going through security protocols, each received a PIN to claim their payment in any teller machine. Once they introduced their PIN in the teller machine, they received their payment.

People burst into applause, jubilant shouts and even tears.

“No more speeches! No more announcements!”—They shouted.

No more good intentions

Monetary payment for informal waste pickers has become a reality, and now 790 waste pickers and their families will receive an average of US$200 for services provided since December, in addition to the income they normally receive from selling the recyclable materials they collect and transport. They will see their normal earnings increase two or three-folds. Many of them, still in shock, could not do anything other than repeating their thanks.

However, the work that remains will be a challenge —the promise is to have all the 14,400 waste pickers in Bogota included into this system. The idea is also that in a few years waste pickers will be organized to provide collection and transportation services of recyclable materials, and that they will also receive (why not?) remuneration for the other environmental services they provide.

Related videos on waste pickers in Colombia

From the series, Chronicles of a Fight for Inclusion

December 2012 Garbage Crisis in Bogota (English) (español)

Order 275 Dating from 2011 (English)  (español)