Waste Pickers Movement (WPM)

Waste Pickers Engagement

We recognize the indispensable role waste pickers play in waste management. Our program is dedicated to advocating for their rights, fostering their inclusion, and establishing supportive policies and legal frameworks to improve their working conditions. By promoting sustainable waste management practices, investing in their education and capacity-building, and celebrating their contributions, we aim to create a more equitable and sustainable waste management ecosystem.

Waste pickers are those who collect, sort and/or process household or commercial/industrial waste on the street, in coop recycling facilities or in open dumps. Waste Pickers are people in the informal waste sector, who do the critical yet unrecognized work of collecting and sorting recyclable waste. They collect 59% of all the plastic that is recycled globally (PEW Report 2020). They can be independent (non organized) or organized as cooperation or associations. 

Waste Pickers Movement

The violation of the fundamental rights of Waste Pickers has been a matter of constant concern, leading workers to organize at local, regional and global levels.

The following list summarizes their demands in response to the critical situation that they currently face.

  • Waste management systems and policies are frequently designed without waste pickers’ participation
  • Public policies must recognize the role of Waste Pickers in waste management and incentivize Waste Pickers to organize
  • Waste pickers must not be removed from income-generating access to recyclable waste for the benefit of private-sector players 
  • Waste Pickers feel unsafe and have no access to healthy work conditions.
  • Waste pickers face obstacles to safely access recyclable materials.
  • Waste pickers face restrictions on their mobility in the city.
  • There are restrictions to Waste Pickers organizing
  • Waste Pickers frequently face harassment from the police and the communities.

Waste cooperatives are essential to transitioning the informal sector to the formal economy, as recommended by the International Labor Conference in 2015. In many countries, waste cooperatives are an accessible way to organize the informal sector without overburdening them with taxation and bureaucracy. In many countries, waste cooperatives are an accessible way to organize the informal sector without overburdening them with taxation and bureaucracy. 

Global Waste Pickers Day

Global Waste Pickers Day marks the need to recognize and appreciate waste pickers and waste workers around the world, honouring these groups and their contribution towards waste recovery. Most of the waste recovered globally is a result of waste pickers and waste cooperatives’ work.

People in the informal waste sector, those who do the critical yet thankless role of collecting and sorting our waste and recyclables without formal recognition and protections from their municipalities are now facing a grave threat. 

“The violation of the fundamental rights of waste pickers has been a matter of constant concern, leading workers to organize at local, regional and global levels.” – GAIA

Municipal governments must protect waste pickers: it is essential to advocate for immediate alleviative measures of social protection for these workers, ensuring a minimum income that covers their basic needs for food, housing and medicines. 

For those cities and countries where waste collection is still ongoing, waste pickers must be recognized as service providers and guaranteed access to recyclable materials. 

Community Service Day (CSD)

We believe in giving back to the communities that support waste pickers and waste collectors. Our Community Service Day involves various initiatives to improve living conditions, access to basic amenities, and environmental health in the neighbourhoods where waste pickers operate.

On Community Service Day, various activities and services are provided free to Waste Pickers including 

  • Screening and health advice for waste pickers
  • Entertainment
  • Hairdressing, Saloon and barber shop services for waste pickers
  • Awareness to the community about waste pickers and their importance to the waste
    management sector

Value Waste Pickers Campaign

Waste pickers are essential workers that provide cities with the management of waste. Their ability to work in a safe environment has a huge impact on a city’s ability to stay clean and free of pests and diseases. Despite this fact, waste pickers and waste collectors tend to be marginalized and unaccounted for by the government and civil society, especially in times of crisis. 

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, waste pickers and waste collectors were particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus, given the fact that studies show that the coronavirus survives for long on different surfaces, including up to 72 hours on plastic surfaces. The majority of low-income neighbourhoods in Dar es Salaam lack waste collection services and communities rely on informal waste collectors paid ad-hoc to collect waste and dispose of it.

Breaking stereotypes and misconceptions about waste pickers and waste collectors is essential for their social integration and recognition. Through our Value Waste Pickers Campaign, we share inspiring stories of waste workers, their resilience, and their commitment to waste management and environmental preservation.

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Male Waste Pickers


Female Waste Pickers


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