Primera asamblea nacional de delegados de la Asociación Nacional de Recicladores de Chile

Durante tres días, 83 representantes de agrupaciones de recicladores base de todo Chile se reunieron en Santiago en su Primera asamblea nacional de delegados con el fin de seguir fortaleciendo su organización y presencia nacional.

En la jornadas de trabajo se presentaron las realidades de las zonas donde trabajan los recicladores, que cubren desde Arica hasta Punta Arenas, además se trabajó en levantar un petitorio nacional, y se realizaron talleres de capacitación realizados por GAIA, Latitud R, representantes de Banco Estado y del Sistema Integrado de Gestión (SIG).

Los logros de la ANARCH durante se vieron reflejados en la entrega de un reconocimiento a las 13 nuevas cooperativas que se han formado tan solo durante el último año. Además, se realizó un merecido y emocionante reconocimiento a las y los recicladores que han trabajado por más de 50 años en el oficio del reciclaje de base, entre los que se destacó con un homenaje a la trayectoria a José González de la ciudad de Talca por sus 60 años como reciclador. 

La asamblea terminó con una marcha hasta el palacio de La Moneda, donde los dirigentes de la zona norte, Carlos Miranda, de la zona centro, Soledad Mella y de la zona sur Jessica Mora, entregaron el petitorio nacional.

Algunos de los puntos del petitorio:

  • Dar respuesta integral a recicladores que aún trabajan en vertederos.
  • Que dentro de la Ley REP se garantice sistemas de reciclaje que contemplen terrenos, centros de acopio, maquinarias, transporte e insumos de trabajo.
  • Apoyo estatal a la regulación de presión del material reciclable.
  • Creación de un Sistema de Fondo solidario de retiro para recicladores.
  • Facilitar el acceso a los proyectos y financiamientos estatales.
  • Pago por todos los servicios prestados en la recolección de residuos.
  • Compromiso de integración en los presupuestos de basura comunal.

Ver más:

Interview with Kabir Arora and Haris Najib by Dan Abril 

[Photo courtesy of the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers]

Founded in  2008, the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers (AIW) was established by four organizations working on the issues of waste pickers:  Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP), Chintan, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and Stree Mukti Sanghatana (SMS). These organizations allied to ensure that the collective voice of waste pickers is represented at the national public agenda. 

As an organization representing waste pickers, AIW has been actively involved in advocating  the cause of waste pickers by conducting training for member organizations, development of policy analysis and recommendations, generation of research studies, and organizing of the waste-pickers in India 

We had a chance to talk with the alliance’s National Coordinator, Kabir Arora and his associate, Assistant Coordinator, Haris Najib on the challenges and joys of handling such a noble organization. 

What are the priorities of the Alliance?

Currently, we are working on a  database. Many of our members have been keeping rudimentary data of organized waste-pickers. Still, we need a more detailed database to provide us with an overview of the membership and the condition of waste pickers in India.  As such, the database shall also serve as a resource for our present and future advocacy work. 

We also keep a tab on programmes and policies when it comes to many aspects such as plastic waste management. The Indian policy landscape is very dynamic and we have to keep negotiating with authorities so models created out of years of struggle of waste pickers won’t be disregarded simply because there is a change in guard.  

The Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) has also come into focus since many organizations worked to have the role of waste pickers recognised in the discussions. 

[Photo courtesy of the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers]

What are the main ongoing campaigns of AIW? 

As we are an alliance engaged in organizing of informal workers, our key work is to ensure that waste pickers have access to social protection measures such as medical care and state insurance programs and benefits like scholarships for their children, and skill-building courses.

In addition, our focus has been on the involvement of waste-pickers in Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) and the integration of waste-pickers in the Solid and Plastic Waste Management Systems.  

What are your biggest accomplishments/achievements?

One of our major achievements was in 2016 with the inclusion of waste pickers and informal waste collectors in the Solid and Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016. This was borne out of the years of advocacy work that started with the Alliance’s inception in 2008. Since that win, we have been engaged in high-level campaigns and have pushed for the participation of waste pickers in discussions on issues that impact the sector. 

Municipalities now understand that waste pickers need to be involved in the process. Before the alliance was set up, people’s approach to waste and waste pickers and understanding of the informal recycling sector was very generic. Now they see the intricacies of waste picking and are able to deal with it in strategic ways through different programs in the community.  It gives us a bigger space to work as a coalition. We are happy that we have reached this status.

What challenges are you facing?  How is your work impacted by the COVID crisis?

As an alliance of waste pickers, we face a number of challenges. First, as a network composed of more than 25 members, it takes us time to reach a consensus on issues. Consensus requires multiple consultations, and as a network, we do not shy away from that process. Members face many challenges including municipal authorities changing their policies and we have to keep negotiating with the authorities to keep policies favourable to waste pickers. 

Second, not all waste pickers get the benefits outlined in various laws and policies. Given the extensive size of the sector and our limited resources, we can only reach a limited few.  

The outbreak of COVID-19 brought more challenges. Waste pickers were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Aside from the loss of income under lockdown rules, several waste pickers faced domestic violence and it was quite sad that we could not provide support for everyone who needed the assistance. On the other hand, some cities – like Bangalore, and Delhi gave waste pickers passes so they can continue collecting waste door-to-door.

Overall, the COVID-19 tragedy brought by the pandemic held us together. The network became strong and the number of people holding the network together increased. Our present goal of creating a database is a result of the pandemic.

What are the main environmental issues that your country/region is facing?

Incineration is not a big challenge at this point since the union government refuses to fund waste incineration projects. Currently, the state governments are asked to look for the funds by themselves if they want to construct one in their area. 

However, we face other issues such as climate change and plastic pollution. Both are horrible and they are interconnected. Waste pickers’ settlements are littered with no-value discards since there are no collection facilities set up by the municipality. Technically, the government should be the one collecting materials that have no value but unfortunately, they don’t do this function. Waste pickers are left with no other option but to burn them as keeping the discards costs waste pickers’ money. 

[Photo courtesy of the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers]

How do you see your organization’s work evolving in the next years? 

We will continue to advocate for the inclusion of waste pickers and focus on organizing and strengthening the network. Overall, we have a positive outlook as the law is on our side – but even though we have the law on our side – we have to be on guard as the privatization of waste management would displace waste pickers and we have to ensure that waste pickers are not removed and would continue to have a place in the waste management system. 

The ongoing national and international discussions on the production, management, and recycling of plastic -have placed a new set of questions regarding just transition for waste pickers, finding the answers to those questions would be a new quest. 

Another area of work would be exploring structures and systems for waste pickers to handle the ever-increasing frequency of extreme weather events. 

What are your thoughts on the waste crisis that many countries in your region (and in the world) are living in right now?

The crisis of waste is also the crisis in how our local governments function.  For waste pickers, waste is a livelihood and it is an opportunity to feed their family. There is a great book, “Rubbish Belongs to the Poor” by Patrick O’ Hare, the book argues that waste should be seen as a common  for vulnerable populations to support itself and this is something we should look into as governments move to the privatization of waste management, leaves waste-pickers out of work

We also look at waste from a very technical point – this includes incineration to dispose of waste. These technical solutions lack human participation. It does not look at the concern of labour, the concern of workers, and the concern of communities surrounded by waste. There is a justice concern there.  Without the emphasis on of labour and workers’ rights and entitlements, you cannot come up with solutions to deal with such complex problems. 

Do you collaborate with partners in other regions? If so, how?

We are a member of the India Plastics Pact and we are leading the discussion on the inclusion of the informal sector in the process of recovering and recycling plastic.  We collaborate regularly with other organizations working on informal workers’ rights such as the Working People Charter and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO).

We also have exchange programmes with waste-pickers organizations in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. If resources permit, we get in touch with waste pickers’ organizations in other countries and we ask them to visit us and check how the work is done or vice versa – And finally, we collaborate with environmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF- India), GAIA, and GAIA members in India. 

How does your work on waste relate to social justice?

The quest for dignity for waste pickers. We organize waste pickers to articulate their aspirations and hopes for the future and work together for their realization.  We as a network have a policy that nothing about waste-pickers or waste management, without waste-pickers, and ensure that waste-pickers represent and speak for themselves.  This has been very clear to us since day one.

Internally we invest a lot on training and workers’ education as it is a central reference point to ensure that all our waste pickers are represented and listened to. 

[Photo courtesy of the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers]

Who do you admire most in environmental work (in your country or in the world)?

Three organizations are pioneers and serve as an inspiration for AIW. First is SMS. We applaud their skill in stirring the conversation towards the involvement of waste pickers in waste management and actually putting it into practice. Then there is Hasiru Dala. Their immense creativity when it comes to waste management and looking at the reuse economy as an alternative source of livelihood for waste pickers is remarkable. Also, there is Chintan in Delhi for their regular reporting in regards to air pollution and their opposition towards waste incineration. 

We would also like to cite a group of sisters from Shillong who organized themselves and is currently managing organic waste and a composting plant –  and they were the ones who approached us! They are an inspiration as they organized themselves. 


For updates, check out the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers at If interested in supporting the creation of their database and their continuing education and training for waste pickers, you may reach them at:

Alexandro Cardoso

As histórias articulam nossas imagética, como processos que acompanham o nosso viver. Aprendi que as imagens nos contam e nos escondem coisas, que as fotos etnográficas são carregadas de outras histórias as quais suscitam nossa memória e fazem com que possamos compreender, como códigos decodificados – que ajudam a desvendar fatos do presente e do passado, bem como planejar melhor nosso futuro, melhorando e muito, as nossas vidas. 

Alex Cardoso.

As histórias são carregadas de imagens e é sobre isso que contarei neste pequeno texto, trazendo os bastidores de como acabei recebendo uma menção honrosa no I Concurso Internacional de Fotografia Etnográfica – UrbanAct, realizado pela Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal. É com muito prazer que compartilho com vocês este pequeno texto, junto com as imagens vencedoras.

Recebi da colega Cristiane Miglioranza, colega das sociais – assim nos chamamos os estudantes do curso de ciências sociais na Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) – uma mensagem pelo WhatsApp contendo as seguintes palavras “Achei a tua cara!” e logo abaixo, na mesma mensagem, um link com informações sobre o I Concurso Internacional de Fotografia Etnográfica – UrbanAct, publicado na página do Programa de Pós-graduação em Antropologia Social da UFRGS, o qual eu faço parte como estudante de mestrado. 

Eu sou catador de materiais recicláveis desde a infância, estudei na minha juventude apenas até a quinta série do ensino fundamental, voltando a ser estudante depois de vinte anos, algo tão importante e significativo, que acabei escrevendo um livro, intitulado Do Lixo A bixo: A cultura dos estudos e o tripé de sustentação da vida, que aborda principalmente minha infância e a relação/importância dos estudos para a transformação social, num relato categorizado como uma forte etnografia performática, o qual já passa de mil exemplares comercializados.

Para mim, não haveria uma coisa tão importante a ser estudada, quanto as relações sociais e econômicas que invisibilizam minha categoria, e os processos exploratórios e predatórios que desvalorizam nosso trabalho nos empurrando para a exclusão social e econômica, tão completa porque não aceitamos quietos e nos organizamos em movimento para trabalhar e lutar pela reciclagem com valorização e reconhecimento do nosso trabalho. 

Voltando a nossa história, abaixo ainda, na mensagem da Cristiane, vinha estas palavras: “prêmio em euro!”, claro que sabendo que eu iria, com toda certeza abrir o conteúdo do link, o qual dizia:

O Concurso Internacional de Fotografia Etnográfica “UrbanAct. Imagens de Ação e Ativismo Ambiental na Cidade” recebe inscrições de trabalhos até 15 de abril de 2022. Serão aceitas submissões de fotografias etnográficas capazes de capturar tensões e desafios ambientais enfrentados pelas cidades no século XXI. As fotografias submetidas devem se focar em temas de ação e ativismo ambiental na cidade e devem ser acompanhadas por uma pequena peça reflexiva com menos de 200 palavras, discutindo o que está a ser ilustrado ou, talvez, escondido nas imagens. (PPGAS, 2022)

E mais abaixo, no texto publicado no site, evidenciava o que estavam solicitando como trabalhos artísticos enquadrados como “fotos etnográficas”: 

Procuramos ensaios fotográficos que documentem visões contemporâneas de transformação espacial urbana, no contexto de formas emergentes de ação e ativismo ambiental. Os ensaios fotográficos podem se focar em tópicos tão diferentes como greves climáticas e outras formas de protesto climático, novos modelos de planeamento urbano e arquitetura que reivindicam uma cultura de construção descarbonizada, ou mesmo movimentos de base de ocupação e esverdeamento de espaços urbanos”, explica Gonçalo D. Santos, professor auxiliar de Antropologia Social-Cultural da Universidade de Coimbra. (PPGAS, 2022)

Rapidamente compreendi o que estava sendo solicitando, e isso me levou a uma disciplina, a qual foi lecionada pela Professora do nosso Departamento de Antropologia, Fabiene Gama, disciplina pesquisa qualitativa, onde Fabiene, como especialista em imagens etnográficas, nos mostrava como podíamos perceber várias histórias que se escondiam ou se revelavam nas fotos estudadas, fato que fez com que eu pudesse compreender melhor a força que as imagens tem e que estas fazem histórias e vice versa. Para conclusão desta disciplina, a professora solicitou-me um trabalho em que eu pudesse contar, ou incentivar o imaginário de quem pudesse estar olhando, fotos etnográficas, logo, me levou a fotografar minhas colegas de trabalho.

Pela familiaridade que tenho, foram rápidas as fotos e as poses, sendo de imediata aceitas pelas minhas colegas de profissão, onde eu informava que as fotos seriam internas, apenas para um trabalho da faculdade, sem jamais imaginar que pudessem ser vistas por outras pessoas além da minha professora e quem dera, serem fotos vencedoras de um concurso internacional. Ganhei nota A por este trabalho.

Assim, retornei a pasta com meus trabalhos, abri este em específico, informei as gurias sobre este concurso e elas concordaram que eu pudesse encaminhar as fotos, rapidamente escrevi o texto com duzentos caracteres, solicitados pelo concurso, e encaminhei por e-mail o trabalho junto com as fotografias. Foram menos de trinta minutos para fazer todo o processo escrever o texto. No outro dia, recebi a confirmação de recebimento do trabalho, o qual estava em acordo com o concurso. Fiquei feliz.

Encaminhei o trabalho para minha colega Cristiane olhar, ela ficou feliz e respondeu: “ficou ótimo” se referindo a qualidade do trabalho.  Passou alguns dias e recebi um e-mail, com texto em inglês:

“After a long discussion that reflected the high quality of the submissions, the jury decided to award an honourable mention to your submission: Alex Cardoso “Catadoras e Ressignificação de Resíduos”. We were all impressed by the imaginative composition of your photographs and their capacity to invite viewers to extend existing notions of environmental action. This was a tough call. The quality of the submissions was so impressive overall that we felt compelled to award an honorable mention to three other submissions because we all agreed that they were all equally impressive.”

A mensagem informa que meu trabalho havia sido premiado com menção honrosa, informação que me deixou completamente feliz e imediatamente compartilhei com Cristiane, esta logo de imediato, transformou a informação em notícia no site do PPGAS trazendo as informações da boa nova, sobre o catador e colega parte do programa de pós-graduação, que acabará de vencer um concurso internacional, recebendo menção honrosa. 

Encaminhei mensagem ao programa solicitando apoio para deslocamento e hospedagem em Lisboa, afim de receber presencialmente essa preciosa recompensa ao trabalho da nossa categoria e a minha articulação entre escrita e imagens, com a participação especial das mulheres catadoras da ASCAT. Entretanto tive como resposta: 

“Parabéns, novamente, pela premiação. No entanto, e infelizmente, não temos como apoiar a ida neste momento, porque a CAPES ainda não liberou o recurso financeiro de 2022, de modo que o PPG está sem dinheiro ainda” fruto ainda do descaso do governo Bolsonaro com a ciência, com a pesquisa e de uma maneira geral com a educação como um todo.

Articulei então, com duas amigas, ambas residentes em Portugal, para que pudessem estar presentes nesta importante atividade, Luciana Freitas, uma pessoa importante na minha vida, ex-moradora da cidade do Rio de Janeiro, a qual trabalhava comigo na CBF onde fazíamos a gestão dos resíduos nos estádios durante os jogos da seleção brasileira, logo passávamos muitos dias juntos visitando e formando os catadores nas cidades dos jogos, discutindo com clubes gestores dos estádios, gestores municipais e outros parceiros nestes arranjos que fazíamos e Karina, uma pesquisadora e estudante de doutorado na Universidade de Coimbra, nos conhecemos a mais de 10 anos, estivemos em muitos locais juntos, eventos, encontros com o estado, formação de catadores, viajamos juntos com mochila nas costas, portanto uma pessoa muito querida por mim e por outros catadores do Brasil.

Ambas aceitaram de imediato estarem presentes, me parabenizando e lamentando a minha não presença física no evento, fato ao qual colocamos na conta do Bolsonaro, o qual faz histórias como estas – da não presença – por falta de comprometimento com a educação e seus processos. Lamentamos muito, mas isso não deixou de tirar o brilho deste momento importante o qual evidencia a importância do trabalho das catadoras e o meu, como catador e estudante, dando luz a parti das imagens etnográficas, um contexto imenso de invisibilidades, altos investimentos na iniciativa privada, falta de materiais recicláveis e alimentos para as catadoras, num momento absurdo de sobrevivência em meio a uma pandemia que consumiu mais de meio milhão de vidas brasileiras.

Enfim, este relato é para que possamos acreditar no impossível, a esperançar dentro daquilo que Paulo Freire nos conta em sua poesia: “Esperançar. É preciso ter esperança do verbo esperançar; Porque tem gente que tem esperança do verbo esperar; E esperança do verbo esperar não é esperança, é espera. Esperançar é se levantar; Esperançar é ir atrás; Esperançar é não desistir!; Esperançar é levar adiante; Esperançar é juntar-se com outros para fazer de outro jeito” – Paulo Freire.

Segue abaixo o texto e as fotografias etnográficas na integra, como trabalho submetido e premiado neste concurso:

Nome artístico: @alexcatador

Título: Catadoras e a ressignificação dos resíduos

Ano: 2021

“Os resíduos são um grande problema ambiental, econômico e humanitário. No Brasil, conforme a Confederação Nacional dos Municípios (2022), 3.313 municípios encaminham seus resíduos para lixões, a Organização das Nações Unidas (2022) informa que bilhões de toneladas de resíduos param nos mares, bilhões de reais são gastos em gerenciamento. A reciclagem tem o índice de 03%. A prefeitura de Porto Alegre paga para empresas privadas mensalmente R$ 4.233.109,29 coleta, R$ 1.783.678,21 transporte, R$ 3.084.052,42 aterro, R$ 899.213,37 coleta seletiva (CARDOSO. 2022), uma mistura que faz faltar resíduos para as catadoras reciclar. A Cooperativa ASCAT recebe apenas R$ 5.158,84 para separar resíduos. A reciclagem gera trabalho, renda e proteção ambiental, entretanto é desvalorizada. Catadoras ressignificam resíduos transformando em vida e deveriam ser valorizadas.”

Catadora Pamela Simone – A catadora e os resíduos: A partir das mãos das catadoras e catadores, os resíduos deixam de ser grandes problemas ambientais, econômicos e sociais torna-se em matéria prima encaminhada para a reciclagem.
Catadora Sandra Rodrigues – A Catadora e a ressignificação dos resíduos: Resíduos deixam de ser problemas, perdem suas características ligadas ao feio, sujo, desperdício econômico, poluidor ambiental e passam a ser belo, limpo, gerador de renda, inclusão social e proteção ambiental 

Por fim, agradeço ao conjunto de mulheres e homens, colegas de trabalho e de escola que contribuíram neste importante trabalho, fruto exclusivamente da conquista coletiva, formado as várias mãos e ideias de quem lecionou, aprendeu e compartilhou conhecimentos. Fica a grande lição de Paulo Freire de esperançar e a minha de compreender e compartilhar. Abraços do @alexcatador.

Catadoras Miriam Moraes e Melânia Menezes – A gestão de resíduos do desperdício: Em Porto Alegre milhares de reais são investidos nas empresas privadas para coletar, transportar e aterrar resíduos, desvalorizando a reciclagem, deixando as catadoras sem trabalho, sem renda, sem alimentos. 

CARDOSO, A. O eu catador: reciclando humanidades, ressignificando resíduos e compartilhando a cultura social da reciclagem. Disponível em: <> Acesso em 11 abr 2022.

CNM. Observatório dos Lixões. Disponível em: <> Acesso em: 11 abr 2022.

ONU. Poluição plástica. Disponível em: <,BR&text=Atualmente%2C%2013%20milh%C3%B5es%20de%20toneladas,carbono%20produzido%20pelos%20seres%20humanos.> Acesso: 11 abr 2022.

Del 21 al 23 de abril, Ciudad de Panamá recibió a representantes de agrupaciones de recicladores de 15 países que, después de estos años de pandemia, volvieron a reunirse en persona en una nueva Asamblea de la Red de recicladores de América Latina y el Caribe. La reunión tuvo por objetivo centrarse en la profesionalización de los recicladores y contó con una nutrida agenda, en la que se desarrollaron una marcha por el Día de la Tierra, talleres formativos y la elección de las nuevas secretarías. 

El movimiento reciclador en Panamá

Que Ciudad de Panamá fuera la sede de la asamblea no es una situación al azar. Hoy, la gestión de residuos en el país y el medio de subsistencia de los aproximadamente 2.000 recicladores está en crisis. Los lugares de recuperación de residuos de los recicladores se concentran principalmente en la capital, y el trabajo se desarrolla en vertederos a cielo abierto, con sus consecuentes riesgos y duras condiciones de trabajo. Esta situación de riesgo genera también diferencias en el patrón de género que se acostumbra ver en las agrupaciones de recicladores en nuestra región que están integradas principalmente por mujeres: en el caso de Panamá, el trabajo en vertederos realizado por mujeres recicladoras representa tan solo un 25% del total  (Farnum y Kelly, 2018).

El problema de gestión de residuos sólidos en Panamá pasa también por los altos niveles de generación de residuos per càpita. Se estima que a diario se producen 1,2 kg diarios de residuos por persona, de los cuales más del 90% se entierra, por eso, aún habiendo acuerdo en que no es la situación ideal, lo cierto es que el trabajo en vertederos a cielo abierto no solo representa una fuente concreta de sustento para miles de familias panameñas, sino que también es la forma más importante de recuperación de residuos sólidos del país, y esto debe ser reconocido. A pesar de esto, las y los recicladores que trabajan en los 62 vertederos a cielo abierto sufren constantemente la amenaza del desalojo, tal como ocurre en Cerro Patacón, el relleno sanitario más grande de Panamá, que luego de la privatización pasó de tener una galera para el reciclaje con 1.300 recicladores a tan solo 80, poniendo en riesgo el sustento de sus familias y el deterioro del ya precario sistema de recuperación de material reciclable. 

Ante esta situación, la Asociación Nacional de Recicladores de Panamá fue la sede perfecta para desarrollar la Asamblea internacional de la RedLacre, en la que las agrupaciones de recicladores locales se nutrieron de la experiencia de sus compañeros, y en el Día de la Tierra se realizó una marcha hasta la Asamblea Legislativa Nacional donde se entregó a los parlamentarios un documento con la situación actual de los recicladores y sus demandas que incluyen acceso a los residuos, inclusión, reconocimiento y pago por servicio, entre otros. 

Si bien se vislumbran algunas posibilidades de avance en materia de inclusión con la implementación de normativa REP y el Plan Municipal de Gestión Integral de Residuos Sólidos (PMGIRS) redactado en 2015 y que busca promover una gestión de residuos más sostenible al año 2035, en la primera parte de los componentes y objetivos del programa señala que en el componente de economía de mercado “se incluiría a la población más vulnerable” y que “se impulsará un mercado basado en el aprovechamiento de residuos con énfasis en la población vulnerable”, apareciendo explícitamente el término “recolector de base” sólo en los objetivos específicos y entre otros actores que entrarían como negocios basados en el aprovechamiento de residuos.

Taller “La crisis del plástico”

Los talleres de capacitación cubrieron temas como Derechos Humanos, cierre de vertederos, Ley REP, economía circular, normativas y la contaminación por plásticos. GAIA estuvo a cargo de desarrollar el taller relacionado con la crisis del plástico, y para ello se trabajó con cuatro cartillas temáticas: 1) Ciclo de vida, 2) Falsas soluciones, 3) Tratado global UNEA y 4) Producción y aditivos. Luego de una presentación donde se entregaron detalles de cada cartilla, los recicladores trabajaron en grupo para discutir en conjunto sobre la importancia de estos temas para su trabajo y desarrollo organizacional, y a través de un vocero señalaron sus conclusiones y los puntos que consideraron fundamentales para compartir con sus agrupaciones.

En la mayoría de los grupos se destacó la preocupación relativa a los daños a la salud que les puede generar trabajar con plásticos tóxicos y su manejo inapropiado, la necesidad de asegurar la reciclabilidad de los materiales a través de mejores diseños y no mediante la generación de más residuos y  finalmente, cómo la integración de los recicladores en el Tratado de plásticos de la UNEA sirve de inspiración para las agrupaciones en formación y que el espacio que han logrado deben usarlo y aprovecharlo al máximo.

Galería de imágenes

Interview with Nguyen Thi Nhat Anh by Sonia G. Astudillo and Dan Abril

The Centre for Social Research and Development (CSRD), a self-funded NGO based in Hue Vietnam, works to seek justice for vulnerable communities, especially women.  A team of four women with diverse backgrounds from environmental science, economics, and public policy, these women are passionate about seeing other women excel not just in Hue but also in their project sites in adjacent provinces in Central Vietnam and lower Mekong.

GAIA sat down with Nhat Anh, CSRD’s Director and one of the youngest directors in the network, to talk about their work and future plans. 

Nhat Anh is a GAIA-BFFP Asia Pacific Communications Officers Fellow whose graduate school thesis on water management motivated her to pursue environmental NGO work and leave her life in Hanoi to join CSRD in Hue city.  

What are CSRD’s top priorities?

Top of our list is women waste workers especially those in the informal sector.  We conduct action research to identify issues related to them such as a lack of benefit and support from the government.  Our focus has always been on women and how they are affected or will be affected by climate change.

Why women?  Because while Kinh women in Vietnam are a power within the family, they are almost always the most vulnerable in the community especially in the rural, mountainous areas and in the informal sectors.  

What are the main ongoing campaigns? 

We are doing research on the current waste direction in Hue city. This will guide us in our projects in the coming years.  In this project, we also have some activities to seek sustainable livelihood initiatives whose aim is directed towards a circular economy and supporting waste workers in generating additional income.    

In the past, we also conducted trainings on preventing sexual violence for women.

Aside from being one of the few organizations in the network working on women empowerment, what are your biggest accomplishments/achievements?

One is promoting women waste workers’ role in Hue’s waste value chain, especially waste pickers in informal sector in An Dong ward through feminist participatory action research (FPAR). In the FPAR project, we treat our participants (women waste workers) as co-researchers. We try to understand everything about waste from the perspectives of women who are working directly with waste every day. After that, we can understand their demand and capacity to have suitable suggestions or support.

What challenges are you facing?  How is your work impacted by the COVID crisis?

Last year, COVID delayed our activities and we could not work with the communities. We cannot organize the women and not everyone has gadgets to communicate and coordinate the work.  In 2021, the government too became so strict with people’s mobility because of COVID 19.  To overcome that, we partnered with the local government to organize the communities and it helped us move our work forward.  

What are the main environmental issues that your country/region is facing?

Our landfills are filling up. There are waste treatment facilities near rice fields. Landfills in Vietnam are nearly filled.  Because of this, the health of the residents, including women waste workers, are impacted seriously from the waste leakage and smoke from burning waste.

How do you see your organization’s work evolving in the next few years? 

In the next 5 years, we still focus on climate change and waste management. Our target groups are still vulnerable women, not only women impacted by climate change but also women in waste informal sector. We also want to raise public awareness on the vulnerability of these women. They are strong women, but they still need empathy from others.

Finally, we also want to apply the concept of a circular economy in the Zero Waste communities and see it being applied in people’s livelihood.

What are your thoughts on the waste crisis that many countries in your region (and in the world) are living in right now?

When I participated in the AP Comms Officers Fellowship – it changed my way of thinking. In addressing the waste issue, we can maybe start from consumption but let’s not also forget the importance of the production side.  Humans buy a lot in the inevitable trend of modern consumerism and it is not always easy to change their habits but we are trying with the communications campaigns on waste.  I think it is necessary to pay attention to companies and how they manufacture their products, and to make them accountable. However, we need to balance both sides, because without demand for unnecessary single-use items, we can lessen our use and production of it.

Education is the key, especially schools in the K-12 system, and even universities.  My young brothers see my behaviors and feel quite abnormal in comparison with their friends. But, luckily, they still form some good habits such as refusing unnecessary nylon bags. This is just a small example to demonstrate the importance of education at home and at school.  I think to make greater impacts, we need a Zero Waste curriculum embedded in the formal education system. Here, students can gain updated knowledge on sustainable development and global issues like climate change, and they also have chances to practise Zero Waste at class level. I believe in the youngsters, they are the future of our Earth! 

Along with this bottom-up approach, we also need to promote appropriate policies at school, district, provincial and national levels from top-down view. Policies pave the way for teachers’ initiatives to be replicated. However if teachers and students themselves don’t want to change, the policy, no matter how good, is difficult to implement effectively. Therefore, we need consensus from stakeholders at all levels. 

Do you collaborate with partners in other regions? If so, how?

We work closely with the local government and the Vietnam Women’s Union, a socio-political organization that represents the voice of women, to promote policies and programs which bring better benefits to vulnerable women.  The Union is a mass organization in all levels, from central government to villages, and they play the role of implementer for so many policies related to women.  

We also work with other organizations in the region depending on the kind and sector of projects in progress.

How does your work on waste relate to social justice?

Our work with women waste workers is social justice.  Women waste pickers are informal employees and receive terrible income without social and health insurance. Women waste pickers contribute to the recycling sector and yet they are usually left to live in poverty.

We work to strengthen their capabilities and enable them to earn more income in a sustainable and circular way. There are lots of solutions all over the world, but the best solution are activities which meet the demand and capacity of local people and can be run by themselves. Therefore, local action is very important in our work.  

I believe that waste management is better for women because women are more in touch with the domestic path.  Women leading the waste management system can lead to better understanding and then better support to women waste workers in both formal and informal sectors.

Who do you admire most in the environmental work (in your country or in the world)?

I admire so many people.  Everyone has strong points.   But it is women waste pickers whom I consider our silent heroes.  Not known but they contribute a lot to protect our Mother Gaia.  When I organize meetings with them, I feel their positive energy. Women waste workers take pride in their work, and know that this work not only caters for them but also protects the natural environment. Their tasks might seem menial but are for our Earth.  

A drop of water makes our ocean so we need small but regular efforts from every individual, especially waste collectors and pickers, to keep our Earth green.   


Interested in empowering women waste workers in Vietnam?  Check out and support their ongoing internal research on waste production to identify the value chain of waste, production, and consumption.  More funds can support other sectors that this all-women team want to investigate.  CSRD is a member of the Vietnam Zero Waste Alliance (VZWA),  a network of organizations and citizens who share a strategy for applying Zero Waste practices to better manage solid waste, reduce plastics, save natural resources, and protect Vietnam’s environment. 

Photos courtesy of CSRD-Hue

Waste picker in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. ©Nipe Fagio

Waste pickers from South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Morocco and Zambia have demonstrated the common need for official recognition from national and municipal governments, better working conditions, PPE, improved payment for their recovered materials and collection and processing service, and an end to social stigmatisation.

The experience of organising shows that these needs are achievable through building representative organisations that will ensure that their voices are heard in negotiations with governments and demonstrate their value to society.

This requires waste pickers to work collaboratively and embed the principles of democracy, equality and environmental justice in their organised structures. Furthermore, municipalities and national governments need to recognise the value that waste pickers play in diverting waste from the landfills, encouraging recycling where materials re-enter the economy and addressing poverty by providing an income for individuals that have been excluded from the formal economy.

Argentina, noviembre de 2021.

Por cuarto año consecutivo, Coca-Cola y PepsiCo lideraron el ranking de empresas que más contaminan el mundo con plásticos, según los resultados de la auditoría de marcas realizada en 45 países por el movimiento BreakFreeFromPlastic1. Entre las marcas que más frecuentemente se identificaron en la basura encontrada en censos en playas, ríos y espacios públicos también figuran otras muy conocidas como Unilever, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble y Mondelēz. 

Estas mismas empresas, líderes en el sector de venta de bienes de consumo masivo, anuncian y reciclan compromisos voluntarios para solucionar el problema que sus productos generan, que luego olvidan, incumplen, dilatan2. Mientras tanto, los plásticos inundan el ambiente, literalmente en cada rincón del planeta3. Y si bien esta situación, afortunadamente, hoy es conocida por todos y todas en el mundo, la respuesta por parte de quienes ponen este material en el mercado, es desesperantemente tibia.  

Algo más de esperanza hay desde el lado normativo. La respuesta normativa ante la crisis mundial de la contaminación por plásticos ha llegado de la mano de centenares de prohibiciones locales al uso de bolsas plásticas descartables, muchas otras que avanzan sobre sorbetes, vasos de poliestireno expandido (telgopor) y otros elementos descartables. Algunos países, como Chile, han avanzado sobre las bolsas plásticas a nivel nacional. La Unión Europea sancionó hasta ahora la normativa de mayor escala, prohibiendo plásticos descartables como platos, cubiertos, sorbetes, vasos y envases de poliestireno expandido y regulando otros como toallas húmedas y envases de bebidas.

La REP como respuesta normativa a la crisis de los plásticos

Otras de las respuestas normativas se fundan en el principio de “Responsabilidad Extendida del Productor” o REP, el que surgió públicamente en Europa a principios de los `90, que se aplica en el viejo continente desde entonces. Este principio se ha extendido hace décadas a algunos países de Asia, ordena normativas de residuos de manejo especial en América Latina desde hace algunos años y en los últimos años se ha puesto muy en boga como respuesta para la creciente cantidad de basura plástica con que los gobiernos deben lidiar. 

La REP es un principio político que busca, por un lado, que quien coloca productos en el mercado (los productores) mejore el diseño de sus productos de modo de reducir los impactos ambientales a lo largo de todo su ciclo de vida. Por otro lado, procura mejorar el manejo de esos productos luego de que se descartan de modo que se mantengan dentro de los circuitos productivos el mayor tiempo posible y por ende no lleguen “a la basura” o su llegada se retrase lo más posible.

Hay quienes dicen que la REP es el nuevo “desarrollo sustentable”. Un principio que parece razonable hasta que toma el significado que cada uno/a quiera darle: puede ser el mejor instrumento para incentivar el rediseño de envases pensando en lo ambiental, o una hermosa plataforma de greenwashing o maquillaje verde para que las empresas hagan “como si” mientras nos inundan con más y más envases.  

En América Latina hay pocas experiencias de REP para envases y embalajes. En Brasil funciona  bajo el esquema de “responsabilidad compartida” y en la práctica ha resultado en el financiamiento parcial del circuito de reciclaje que sostienen las y los catadores, (recicladores de base o cartoneros), pero con un alcance limitado en términos de mejorar los sistemas municipales y de inclusión efectiva y sostenida de las y los catadores. En Chile, la Asociación Nacional de Recicladores (ANARCH) denuncia que la ley REP los obliga a “entrar” a un sistema que ellos mismos construyeron cuando nadie más reciclaba. El sistema planteado por dicha ley se asemeja al esquema más extendido en Europa, donde el control del circuito de manejo de los envases y embalajes queda en manos de los productores. La resistencia a sistemas REP que privatizan el manejo de residuos en manos de los productores e ignoran la preexistencia de las y los recicladores de base se extiende a organizaciones de recicladores y socioambientales en nuestra región. 

Por otro lado, el modelo de REP extendido en Europa, basado en “Sistemas Integrados de Gestión”, también es sujeto de fuertes críticas asociadas a la falta de transparencia de estos sistemas controlados por productores, la disparidad de poder entre éstos y los municipios con los que interactúan, la veracidad y la capacidad de fiscalización de las cifras que publican y su efectividad en incentivar el rediseño de los productos regulados4.  

Un modelo distinto para Argentina

En ese marco, recientemente se presentó en Argentina un proyecto de ley de envases que se aleja de estos modelos. El proyecto obliga a los productores a pagar una tasa por cada envase que ponen en el mercado. La tasa es diferenciada, y el monto a pagar varía en base a ciertos criterios ambientales, como nivel de reciclabilidad, contenido de materiales reciclados, los insumos que llevaron a su fabricación y factores de ecodiseño, entre otras. Cuanto menor impacto ambiental tenga el envase, menor será el monto de la tasa a pagar. El proyecto exime del pago de la tasa a  aquellos envases que se encuentren dentro de un sistema de devolución, depósito, retorno y reutilización, como el que felizmente sobrevive en las botellas de cerveza de litro y algunas gaseosas en Argentina.

© Federación Argentina de Cartoneros, Carreros y Recicladores – UTEP

Resulta obvio, pero en estos tiempos vale la pena aclarar ciertas cosas: aquellos productos que comiencen a entregarse sin envases quedan fuera de la ley y del pago de la tasa. ¿Será momento de decirle adiós a las inexplicables bandejas de telgopor y film donde se envasa la fruta? 

Lo recaudado por la tasa nutrirá un fondo nacional manejado por el estado nacional, que se utilizará para financiar los sistemas de manejo de envases municipales, previa presentación por parte de los municipios de un plan de gestión de envases. Los planes de gestión deben incluir, entre otras cosas, metas de recuperación, un plan de incorporación de trabajadoras y trabajadores de reciclado, un análisis de la capacidad de la industria recicladora local, entre otras cosas. Los procesos de recuperación de envases permitidos son la reutilización y el reciclaje, y el estado nacional fijará metas específicas de recuperación. Una parte de lo recaudado por la tasa se destinará a fortalecer la capacidad productiva de reciclaje y a fomentar el ecodiseño.

La lógica de la ley, entonces, es internalizar los costos del manejo de residuos de envases, fortaleciendo los sistemas municipales de manejo de residuos, en lugar de generar sistemas paralelos manejados por las empresas. A su vez, el destino de los fondos y las obligaciones dentro de los planes de gestión municipales reconocen la preexistencia de la labor de las y los trabajadores del reciclaje y apunta a fortalecer el sistema de manejo en sus manos. 

El proyecto de ley plantea una forma diferente de garantizar la responsabilidad financiera y en alguna medida la responsabilidad informativa de los productores, sin otorgarles la responsabilidad operativa. 

Es un proyecto perfectible, como todos. Una mayor precisión y mecanismos de transparencia para la presentación y financiación de planes de gestión municipales, la fijación de metas claras y únicas de reciclaje y cuotas de envases reutilizables, una composición más amplia del consejo consultivo y una redacción más clara sobre la reutilización y reciclaje como únicos destinos aceptados son algunos de los puntos a ver en la redacción o la reglamentación. También se verá en la práctica si la tasa es lo suficientemente diferenciada entre quienes ponen envases con buen desempeño ambiental y quienes no, como para ser un incentivo efectivo hacia el rediseño. 

Más allá de esto, el proyecto de ley está a tono con las disquisiciones que se observan en la región en torno a las leyes de envases que puedan ser más efectivas y beneficiosas en nuestro contexto. Entre otras cosas, porque se orienta a mejorar los sistemas municipales y a avanzar en el reconocimiento y la inclusión de las y los recicladores de base, integra criterios tendientes a incentivar el rediseño y también a desarrollar la cadena de reciclado, y evita dar a los principales contaminadores de plásticos del mundo el control sobre los circuitos de reutilización y reciclado. 

 1 Ver The #BrandAudit2021 Report, BreakFreeFromPlastic 

2 Ver Tangpuori,et al (2020). Talking trash: The corporate playbook of false solutions to the plastics crisis. Changing Markets Foundation.  

3 Encuentran restos de plástico en el punto más profundo del océano, National Geographic España, 15 de mayo de 2019.

4 Tangpuori, A. D, et al. Talking trash: The corporate playbook of false solutions to the plastics crisis. Changing Markets Foundation, 2020.  

CIC, 2020. Ciclo ¿Qué es lo que NO estamos hablando de la Ley REP? “Aciertos y errores de la gestión europea“, Colegio de Ingenieros de Chile. 

Seldman, Neil: “EPR in the US Can’t Directly Follow the European Model; It Must Avoid a Producer Monopoly”, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 13 July, 2021

GAIA LAC, 2021. Memoria del Ciclo de conversaciones sobre REP para envases y embalajes. 

ZWE, 2015: Redesigning producer responsibility: a new EPR is needed for a circular economy. Fundació per a la Prevenció de Residus i el Consum Responsable for Zero Waste Europe. 

The Cape Agulhas Municipality and the Zero Waste Association of South Africa (ZWASA) have embarked on an innovative Zero Organic Waste to Landfill Pilot Project in Bredasdorp, a small town located in the Western Cape of South Africa, with the ambitious goal to divert 100% of organic waste from the landfill by the year 2027.

The group is working towards becoming the first zero waste town in the country by implementing several key strategies. Firstly, the separation of organic waste at source, to prevent the cross-contamination of materials and increase the number of recycled products.

Keith Roman, director of ZWASA and project manager notes: “The landfill crisis in South Africa is mainly due to the fact that municipalities are failing to implement the most favoured option, in terms of South Africa’s Waste Act and Waste Hierarchy, which is prevention. Secondly, municipalities are not separating waste, especially food waste, at the source.”

Households in the pilot area are provided with compostable bags, to separate organic waste; green bags, to separate garden waste; recycled clear bags for recyclable materials; and a wheelie bin for residual waste. This system is complemented with a separate collection and transportation system to avoid cross-contamination of recyclables and organic waste. Furthermore, households are provided with a manual on how to separate their waste materials at home.

Additionally,the municipality is in the process of constructing a Material Recovery Park (MRP), which will be an integral part of this project, to maximize the waste diversion potential of the municipal district and extend the available lifespan of the current landfill site. The MRP will be equipped with a material recovery facility to recover materials; community drop off points, composting and vermicomposting points; as well as a resource and education centre. The park also aims to provide employment opportunities in the operation and management of the MRF, organic waste diversion facilities, material transfer station and the transportation of containers to the regional landfill facility in order to sustain economic growth in the region.

“There are approximately 20 waste pickers working on the Bredasdorp landfill site, the municipality and ZWASA plan to integrate the waste pickers into this system. As well as provide them with the appropriate organisational capacity building, training and mentorship as part of the integration process,” said Keith.

The group is expecting to achieve 50% of waste diverted from the landfill by 2022.


Follow ZWASA on Facebook for more updates on their work! 

Centre for Zero Waste & Development in Africa (CZWDA) and Citizens Environmental & Social Concern (CESCo) held a joint national symposium for waste pickers on plastic pollution. The event which was held on 22 October, was the first national symposium for waste pickers in Lusaka, Zambia.

The objective of the symposium was to advocate for waste picker rights, promote plastic reduction, advocate for a total ban on single-use plastic bags, promote separation of waste from source and zero waste, as well as to demand ambitious plastic policy, through national alliance-building

The meeting brought together different actors in the waste management sector, such as the local government, the Zambia Environmental Agency,  local waste pickers from the Lusaka and Serenje region, and the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA), who joined the meeting to share experiences on waste picker organising in South Africa.


Image courtesy of CESCO & CZWDA

During the gathering, speakers highlighted the role that waste pickers play in recycling and in achieving a circular economy. Despite their valuable contributions to the environment, waste pickers in the country face challenges such as: abuse and lack of respect from communities, lack of recognition from the government, a lack of personal protective equipment, and the transportation of their recyclable materials.

Speakers also addressed the importance of recognising and formalising waste pickers in the country’s waste management plans, as well as engaging them in policy formulation in the waste sector.

Nkwilimba Given, Project Coordinator from CZWDA, said that there is a need to implement bylaws for separation of waste at source, to aid the work of waste pickers. Furthermore, he added that manufacturers need to work with waste pickers, to address the waste management crisis.

“Manufacturers need to recycle and reuse the plastic waste they produce. It, therefore, makes sense to engage waste pickers to collect these materials from the environment, as a way of helping to solve the problem of waste management in the country. This will further encourage the reusing and recycling of waste materials,” said Nkwilimba.

Conwell Hakapya, Executive Director of CESCO said that there is hope that the future of waste pickers in the country looks bright, because of the huge support they received from stakeholders in the country during the symposium.

“ Waste pickers for the very first time in Zambia will have a voice in the corridors of power, and their plight will be heard, slave wages will soon be a thing of the past. We are very optimistic that within a year Zambian waste pickers will be able to walk with their heads held high with dignity and respect.”