Stop treating waste pickers as homeless

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Waste pickers are viewed with contempt for the work they do. Most do not realize that it is they who are saving the planet

Stop treating waste pickers as homeless

In Bogotá it is usual to see recyclers 'digging' in the garbage to find recyclable material and take it to the collection centers to sell it. For many, such noble work is seen as a profession for the pariahs of society. Many people despise the work of waste pickers and treat them as "second class humans" for recycling and associate them with drug addicts and homeless.

Leer en español: Dejemos de tratar a los recicladores como desechables

What these people do not see is that the job of the recycler contributes to the welfare of the planet more than they imagine. Giving a new life to objects that we no longer use from recycling reduces the environmental burden the planet faces, because it reduces the amount of waste.

However, not everyone is aware that in order to do this, and implement a sustainable economic model such as the circular economy, it is necessary to separate the waste from the usable material and take it to the places where they will be reused.

In the absence of material being separated from homes and offices, and being a job opportunity, waste pickers fulfill this function and contribute to reducing the amount of waste reaching landfills and oceans. Then, their work should not be despised or devalued, on the contrary, it should be understood as what it is: a way to save the world. It sounds exaggerated, yes, but their contribution is much greater than what the rest of us usually do.

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Instead of looking over their shoulders and judging them, we must reflect on their role. Unlike most, who waste without thinking if the material can be used and the consequences worldwide, waste pickers are facilitating that there are more products made with sustainable materials, opening the possibility that in the not so distant future can be implement recycling as a functional system.

What is my invitation? Do not look at them as if they were small or think of them as second-rate humans. Rather, think about how you can contribute to their job. For example, in your home and office, separate usable materials so that waste pickers do not have to open waste bags.


LatinAmerican Post | Marcela Peñaloza
Translated from "Dejemos de tratar a los recicladores como desechables"