Wastepickers at the United Nations Climate Change Conferences

Waste pickers contribute to the conservation of natural resources and energy while reducing air and water pollution. They also reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the reuse of materials. Around the globe, waste pickers are organizing and fighting for recognition of their significant environmental contributions.

WIEGO is a partner in the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers and Allies, which brings waste pickers from Latin America, Asia and Africa together with support organizations and environmentalists to offer real solutions for climate change mitigation and waste management. Through collective action, they have voiced their concerns and demands at international climate change meetings worldwide. 

The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers and Allies took part in the following climate change conferences and events:

Just Recycling: Changing Minds about Waste Pickers

Waste Pickers’ Voices Reach Global Stage

Waste picker delegates made their voices heard at the United Nations Climate Change Conferences in Durban (COP 17, 2011) and Cancun (COP 16, 2010). At both, waste pickers played an active role, garnering media attention at their press conferences, speaking engagements, demonstrations and events.

As they had at COP 15 in Copenhagen (December 2009), waste pickers advocated for alternative funding mechanisms to support fair and just solutions to climate change. At a panel meeting with key climate change negotiators, including the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) board, they voiced their core demands:

  • recognize the crucial role the informal recycling sector plays in climate change mitigation and a healthy economy
  • approve a Global Climate Fund to invest in resource recovery programs that will ensure decent livelihoods for all workers, and that are directly accessible by waste pickers and other informal economy groups
  • exclude waste disposal technologies (such as incinerators) from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and other climate funds, as these destroy valuable reclaimable materials and take income from workers

To follow the ongoing activities of waste pickers on the world stage, visit the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers website at globalrec.org.

The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers is a networking process supported by WIEGO, among thousands of waste picker organizations with groups in more than 28 countries covering mainly Latin America, Asia and Africa.


In the News

From COP21: Effort Not Wasted as City Ragpicker Bags UN Award. Times of India (2 December 2015)

A Waste Picker From Bengaluru Will Speak At A UN Conference In Paris. How Cool is that? StoryPick.com (30 November 2015)

More on this story:

Mansoor, waste picker from Bengaluru, speaks at COP21 panel
photo: Kabir Khan

Mansoor- wastepicker from Bengaluru shared the story of his work and reforms in waste management scene of the city, from segregation at source to setting up of recyclables, inorganic and inert waste aggregation centers. He talked about everything in a side event hosted jointly by Indian Youth Climate Network, CAN South Asia and Development Alternatives. He also informed the members in the audience of how incineration plants are being proposed to manage waste, which will harm both environment and livelihoods of wastepickers. The panel which he was part of was themed on climate resilience in South Asia and included representative from Madhya Pradesh Government, President of Development Alternatives and Senior Executives of International organisations Saleemul Huq and Dr. Ali Taqueer.
- Kabir Khan

Mansoor - wastepicker from Bengaluru - speaks at COP21 panel
photo: Kabir Khan

For the latest news items from around the world, visit WIEGO's News section about waste pickers.


Featured Resources and  Publications

God is My Alarm Clock"God is My Alarm Clock": A Brazilian Wastepicker's Story
Read about the life of a Brazilian waste picker: Dona Maria Brás was a tireless force in helping Brazilian waste pickers overcome persecution and gain respect and security as members of cooperative ventures.

English  | español  | português


Fighting for an Inclusive Model for Recycling in BogotaARB: Fighting for an Inclusive Model for Recycling in Bogota (Case Study)

summary  | download publication


Respect for Recyclers: Protecting the Climate Through Zero WasteRespect for Recyclers: Protecting the Climate through Zero Waste by Neil TangriReducing, reusing, and recycling municipal waste is one of the easiest and most effective means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides gainful employment to millions of people in the developing world, mostly in the informal sector (‘waste pickers’).”

summary | download publication

español: Respeto a los recicladores: Protegiendo el clima a través de Basura Cero resumen  |  descargar publicacione


Cooling Agents and Greenhouse Gas MitigationCooling Agents: Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation by the Informal Recycling Sector in India by Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group, Safai Sena and the Advocacy Project (2009) – “Intuition and common sense suggest that recycling waste mitigates greenhouse gases. Now, data from all over the developed world shows this to be true. But what about the developing world? .... The aim of this report is two-fold: to establish the relationship between municipal solid waste and greenhouse gases, and to undertake a first attempt at quantifying the emissions reductions attributable to the informal recycling sector through the case study of Delhi, India.” summary  |  download publication

Technical Briefs

Wastepickers and Carbon FinancingWaste Pickers and Carbon Finance: Issues to Consider - This Technical Brief clarifies the requirements for carbon finance mechanisms to provide an assessment of whether informal waste picker membership-based organizations (MBOs) in the global South can reasonably meet these requirements and the potential investments needed to successfully secure carbon financing. summary  |  download publication


Paying Waste Pickers for Environmental ServicesPaying Waste Pickers for Environmental Services: A Critical Examination of Options Proposed in Brazil - summary  |  download publication

español: Remuneración a los recicladores por servicios ambientales: un examen crítico
resumen  |  descargar publicacione


Partners in Supporting Waste Pickers -

  • Alliance of Indian Wastepickers
  • GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives/Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance)
  • KKPKP (Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat)
  • La Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Recicladores (Latin American and Caribbean Network of Waste Pickers)
  • Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)