On this International Workers’ Day, we, the waste pickers – who collect and sort recyclable materials from the waste generated by households, businesses, and industries – want to mark this momentous occasion where we can come together and acknowledge the contributions of waste pickers around the world. As we reflect on this May Day, we want to highlight our past achievements as a movement and the progress we have made in our fight for our rights, but also remember and lay emphasis on our struggles and our fight for fair treatment and recognition as essential workers, and share plans for future to consolidate our association at the international level.
We have organised ourselves, formed alliances, and taken collective action to bring attention to the issues that impact us as workers. Since 2020, we have formed our Global Advisory Committee, which has allowed us to start our Constitution Writing Process, with a proper committee, resulting in the launching of our Constitution in October last year. After a long period of functioning as an informal network of like-minded waste picker organisations, we are now on the path to register our association, the International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP), with democratically elected leadership. We are organising the affiliation process that will lead us to our first elective congress, which will take place late April 2024 in Buenos Aires. In a year’s time, we hope we can be celebrating this huge achievement at labour/worker’s day along with all the waste picker community and supporters!
We also want to highlight that the mention of workers in informal and cooperative recycling system during UNEA (United Nations Environment Assembly) 5.2 and later explicit mention of waste pickers in various documents and interventions circulated for the plastics treaty negotiations by governments, multilateral institutions including United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are a significant breakthrough for waste pickers movement. These international agreements and documents for the plastics treaty take a nuanced view of informality and cooperative spirit of waste pickers work. During the plastics treaty negotiations, member states have launched the Group of Friends of Waste Pickers and Just Transition Initiative for waste pickers and other workers in the recycling value chain.
But, despite all these achievements, waste pickers around the world still continue to face significant challenges and struggles in their daily lives. In most countries, we are still not recognised as workers, further we are denied both labour and human rights such as healthcare, education, and fair remuneration. Despite the essential role that we waste pickers play in keeping our communities clean and healthy, we are often marginalized and overlooked. We must continue to work towards building a more just and equitable society for all.
In solidarity to all workers on our day,
IAWP Communications Committee
This press statement was released by the International Waste Pickers Alliance on 01 May 2023.