On March 21stof 2019, the Municipality of Berazategui, Argentina, passed an ordinance through which they would ban any animal-drawn carts in the whole district. This ordinance would mainly affect wastepickers since they work with them. Taking this ban as a wastepickers’ labour persecution, on May 26th, waste pickers appealed the ordinance and won. The success on the court might be shorter than expected since as announced by the Municipality, they would fight back. The approval of the ordinance could expose waste pickers and their families to a loss of their livelihoods and the labour rights they have worked so hard to gain.
Berazategui is a district which forms part of the Gran Buenos Aires metropolitan area in Argentina and has as main city the City of Berazategui. More than 300 hundred informal recyclers live and carry their economic activities only in the city . That means, they collect, sort, recycle and sell the materials that can be reused. They use circular economy as a tool of social inclusion and generator of employment in the waste management area of the district. Waste pickers in the district are divided by the type of activities they do, from door to door collection to sorting waste in dumps, helped by their animal-drawn carts.
On March 21st, the major of Berazategui district approved the ordinance nº 5694, by which any animal-drawn vehicle was banned in the whole district except for touristic and/or cultural aims. This ordinance also contemplates the creation of a census of waste pickers, in order to eventually giving them an electric bike. The cost of the electric bike would be discounted from wastepickers’ gains. The ordinance came as a measure to fight animal abuse, since there had been cases where some of the animals that powered the carts had died .
On the other hand, wastepickers stated that this ordinance in the name of animal abuse is just another way of persecution and dispossession from their jobs and livelihoods . Moreover, they claim that have been given only 32 bicycles, and that they were not enough to cover their needs. This ordinance marginalizes the work of old waste pickers or the ones that suffer from health problems. They can’t allow themselves to work at a lower level i.e. not handling as much as load as they were able to do before. Further, until all the bikes are given, months can pass, and they can’t afford that.
To show their discomfort and disagreement with this ordinance, two demonstrations took place in front of the Municipality. On April 15th and 25th, waste pickers from Berazategui took the streets to protest against this ordinance since they see their families’ livelihoods put at risk . As they stated, they tried to establish a dialogue with the Municipality, but didn’t receive any response from them. They’re willing to analyze different alternatives, but ones that cover their needs and allow them to carry on with their activities in normality.
On May 1st, the ordinance became official in the whole district and it would affected every single wastepickers’ livelihoods in Berazategui but, on May 26th, the ‘Federación Argentina de Cartoneros, Carreros y Recicladores -CTEP’, an Argentinian organization of wastepickers had filed an appeal against the ordinance nº5694, which they won. Through this appeal, the waste pickers’ organization defended their right to work with their animal-drawn carts, but not closing themselves to finding other alternatives. Further, they ask for the state recognition of the important labour they do. They aimed the Municipality to stop with their persecution and to stop criminalizing the recycling activities they carry on.
On June 1st, the Municipality of Berazategui , expressed their disagreement through a statement and warned the waste pickers that they would fight back the appeal. The conflict is ongoing .
Currently, the ordinance only affects the city of Berazategui and not the whole district. Moreover, this appeal is under work whilst waste pickers from Berazategui see their livelihoods put at risk and they keep doing their job with an uncertain future.