After several protests carried out by animal activists, the ban on animal drawn carts was under study by the Municipality in 2015. This ban would put at risk wastepickers’ livelihoods and would hinder their ability to collect recyclable waste. As consequence, animal activists and wastepickers organizations decided to jointly demand to public authorities a feasible alternative to the carts. After years of demonstration, in 2017, the Municipality presented a plan by which intended to improve wastepickers’ job conditions and change the animal drawn carts for motorcars.
In May 2015, a group of activists and wastepickers demonstrated in front of the Municipality of Montevideo, Uruguay. The group of activists have actively defended the rights of animals for more than 20 years . They have tried to get the ban of animal drawn carts approved. This would hinder the wastepickers jobs, since with the help of the animal drawn carts they collect recyclable materials. On the other hand, wastepickers have defended their right to work. They claim that without these carts, they wouldn’t be able to recycle as much as they do. Further, this ban would have an impact on more than 9,000 thousand waste pickers, based on the 2011 census information provided by the president of the Organization of Municipal Solid Wastepickers (UCRUS in Spanish) . The tension between these two groups have been latent for years, and finally this tension has come to an end. They decided to join forces in order not to use the animal drawn carts anymore, opting for a feasible alternative. This is a low cost transport means for wastepickers, that could not easily afford more expensive alternatives like trucks.
The animal draught carts, mainly draught by horses are a tool that waste pickers use in order to recycle in the streets of Uruguay. The pressure by the activists protecting animal rights has been present for years and wastepickers feared that if the ban was approved, they would lose their only source of income. The ban that has been under consideration for years by the Municipality, represented a threat for wastepickers’ livelihoods, since no viable alternative for all was offered. In reality this would mean a further marginalization and dispossession of their labour rights.
In the end, the two groups reached an agreement in order to pursue both their aims and they started working on a project that would have a better ending to this problem.
On July 2015, the mayor of Montevideo met the two groups in order to try to solve this conflict. This meeting aimed to listen to both sides of the conflict. The president of UCRUS stated that they’re seeking new ways of working for wastepickers. From the animal drawn carts to new job positions in recycling plants. However, the focus was on the project presented by the two groups, which proposed different alternatives to the animal drawn carts .
On July 2017, after several months working on a transition plan for better job conditions for waste pickers, the Municipality of Montevideo presented the plan of Labour Reconversion. By means of this plan, the Municipality offers different benefits to the waste pickers in exchange of their carts. Those benefits consist of the delivery of motorcars (electric or fuel powered) to carry on their recycling activities, loans or trainings to engage on new activities. Further these loans, could also be intended for the improvement of the wastepickers’ houses or any other matter that would improve the family well-being .
On December of 2017, the Municipality started granting the motorcars to some waste pickers during a pilot test which would help to improve this Plan .
On October 2018, the second phase of the Plan started. Thus, seven more workers joined the plan proposed by the Municipality .
Currently the plan is still going on and it intends to target as many wastepickers as possible. However, some concerns have aroused since the poorest waste pickers might not be able to afford the maintenance costs of the motorcars.