Waste Pickers' Ongoing Fight for Recognition

Observing Waste Pickers' Day around the world

Recent Achievements

The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers provides a wealth of up-to-date information on waste pickers around the world, their struggles and triumps. Visit www.globalrec.org.

Brazilian waste pickers have fought for and gained recognition in recent months:

  • Through a partnership between Brazil’s National Movement of Recyclers (MNCR), Coca Cola Brasil and FIFA, 840 waste pickers were contracted in the 12 World Cup host cities to collect recyclables at the stadiums. In addition, the Ministry of the Environment opened a credit line for host cities to encourage the municipalities to set up selective waste collection that hires catadores (waste pickers) to work at official parties.
  • In February 2014, Women’s International Center awarded Brazilian waste picker leader Maria Monica da Silva the Living Legacy Prize for her work promoting environmental justice.
  • The MNCR, Brazil's national waste picker movement, organized a week of solidarity in November with the workers of the Uruguaiana dumpsite. The group convinced the mayor to agree to integrate the waste pickers and end a contract for waste incineration. Read more.
  • A coalition of Brazilian waste picker organizations is fighting two legislations that allow waste incineration in Belo Horizonte.
  • A law now authorizes the use of public funds to compensate waste pickers (catadores) for their environmental contributions on an ongoing basis. For years, the Brazilian movement of catadores (MNCR) have fought to receive compensation for the urban services they provide in waste management. Catadores received their first payments in December 2012. Read more.
  • In 2012 and again in 2013, 3,000 waste pickers from Brazil and 14 countries participated in Expocatadores. Sonia Dias, WIEGO's Waste Sector Specialist, gave a workshop on gender empowerment at the annual gathering, organized by the Brazilian waste picker movement. Federico Parra, WIEGO's Regional Coordinator for Waste Pickers in Latin America, also took part.

In Bogota, Colombia, political turmoil erupted after allegations that the mayor mismanaged the city's waste collection contracts. The controversy relates to the integration of informal waste pickers in the city's solid waste collection system. In a 2014 Global Urbanist article, Melanie Samson, Federico Parra and Olga Abizaid of WIEGO argue that this action is bound up in the fate of informal recyclers, revealing the challenges faced by local governments in creating more equitable cities. Read more.

Earlier in 2013 in Bogota, the Mayor's Office launched a payment system for waste pickers in exchange for their services collecting and transporting recyclable materials. Read more and see the videos "Chronicles of a Fight for Inclusion."

Bogota's Nohra Padilla, who led this and many other fights, received the world's largest award for grassroots environmentalism. Read more.

Green Jobs at the ILC – Waste pickers played an active role at the International Labour Conference (ILC) 2013 in June. “Sustainable Development, Green Jobs and Decent Work” was the theme. Representatives from three strong waste picker organizations (ARB,Colombia; KKPKP,India; and MNCR,Brazil) attended, along with a small delegation from WIEGO that included Lucia Fernandez, Global Waste Picker Coordinator, Karin Pape, European Adviser, and Justina Pena Pan, Events and Travel Manager. In advance, WIEGO and its waste picker partners prepared a position paper—Waste Pickers: The Right to Be Recognized as Workers. The waste picker representatives presented to select organizations and engaged with the Workers' and Tripartite Committee on Sustainable Development, struggling to have the recycling sector considered as a key sector within sustainable development—and waste pickers noted as a group that deserves special attention. Participation at ILC 2013 strengthened relationships with unions, ILO branches, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). In fact, ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow invited the waste pickers to the ITUC Congress in 2014, where “green jobs” will be one of the priority topics. Read the delegation’s report.

In April 2013, WIEGO's Sector Specialist Sonia Dias spoke at a UN-Habitat meeting where mayors from around the globe came to talk about job creation and local productivity. Read more.

KKPKP, a waste picker organization in India, held a successful sit-in from March 20-26, 2013 outside the municipal office of Pimpri-Chinchwad to protest incomplete payment of wages and and other irregularities. For months, KKPKP had complained to municipal authorities that waste workers were being paid far less than the required minimum wage by waste collection contractor BVG Kshitij. The protest concluded successfully after Municipal Commissioner Shrikar Pardeshi examined the evidence—documents KKPKP collected using the Right to Information Act—and sided in favour of KKPKP, saying waste pickers should be paid almost 30,000,000 rupees towards work they have done in the last year. 


Waste recovery and recycling reduces greenhouse gases, improves public health and can save municipalities money. Many municipalities are taking advantage of the environmental, economic and social benefits of including informal recyclers in waste management systems. Read Waste Wise.

To learn more about  waste pickers' daily fight for their rights all over the world, read GlobalRec’s most recent newsletter.

Videos About Waste Pickers

First Congress of Latin American Waste Pickers
Managua, February 2012
Lucia Fernandez
, WIEGO's Global Coordinator for Waste Pickers, is inteviewed in this video.


SEWA's Silent Eco Film
(SEWA is a WIEGO Institutional Member)


Uruli Landfill, Pune, India
(KKPKP, WIEGO Institutional Member)


Waste Pickers' Co-operatives: C.W.G. Project


Cronicas de Una Lucha por la Inclusion - Recicladores


View more videos about waste pickers.