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Ban on animal-drawn carts jeopardizes wastepickers’ livelihoods in Montevideo, Uruguay


Description:

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 [1]. 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) [2]. 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 [3]. 

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 [4].

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 [5]. 

On October 2018, the second phase of the Plan started. Thus, seven more workers joined the plan proposed by the Municipality [5]. 

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.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Ban on animal-drawn carts jeopardizes wastepickers’ livelihoods in Montevideo, Uruguay
Country:Uruguay
Location of conflict:Montevideo
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Live Animals

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Substitution of motor cars for animal-drawn wastepickers' carts

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:9,000 waste pickers approximately.
Start of the conflict:01/05/2015
End of the conflict:01/07/2017
Relevant government actors:Municipality of Montevideo. Website: http://www.montevideo.gub.uy
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Representing waste pickers, the Organization of Municipal Solid Waste Pickers (UCRUS in Spanish). Website: https://ucrus-pit-cnt.weebly.com

WIEGO. wiego.org. Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing is a Manchester-based global research - policy network focused on improving conditions for workers in the in the informal economy.

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Social movements
Wastepickers, recyclers
Animal rights activists
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsLoss of recycling
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood

Outcome

Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Negotiated alternative solution
Development of alternatives:The Organization of Municipal Solid Waste Pickers (UCRUS in Spanish) met the mayor of Montevideo and presented to him the different needs that the wastepickers have. As consequence, a plan for the improvement of the job conditions of waste pickers was presented by the Municipality targeting these mentioned needs. Among them was the exchange of the animal-draught carts by motorcars, and the different loans offered to improve the waste pickers' situation.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:It's a small success since the waste pickers were provided a feasible and efficient alternative to animal-draught carts. However, the motorcars provided are not enough in comparison to the number of waste pickers. Therefore, I think the alternative proposed is good but the Municipality has to keep working jointly with the waste pickers if they want this plan to be a total success.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Lucia Fernandez, a study of Montevideo wastepickers.
https://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/migrated/publications/files/Day%202.2%20-%20Waste%20Pickers%20-%20Fernandez.pdf

Lucia Fernandez, a study of wastepickers, with reference to Montevideo. Waste Pickers: Forging a New Conceptualization of “The Public” in Waste Management
https://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/migrated/publications/files/Day%202.2%20-%20Waste%20Pickers%20-%20Fernandez.pdf

‘We Looked after People Better when We Were Informal’: The ‘Quasi-Formalisation’ of Montevideo’s Waste-Pickers. PATRICK O’HARE. University of Manchester, UK. Bulletin of Latin American Research. 2019. DOI:10.1111/blar.12957
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332806162_'We_Looked_after_People_Better_when_We_Were_Informal'_The_'Quasi-Formalisation'_of_Montevideo's_Waste-Pickers

Fernández, L. (2012) Paisajes-basura: Dinámicas y Externalidades Territoriales del Reciclaje en Montevideo, Uruguay. Documento de Trabajo de WIEGO. Políticas Urbanas: Manchester, 25.

‘We Looked after People Better when We Were Informal’: The ‘Quasi-Formalisation’ of Montevideo’s Waste-Pickers. PATRICK O’HARE. University of Manchester, UK. Bulletin of Latin American Research. 2019.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332806162_'We_Looked_after_People_Better_when_We_Were_Informal'_The_'Quasi-Formalisation'_of_Montevideo's_Waste-Pickers

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[3]Newspaper Montevideo Portal: “Intendente recibió a recicladores”
https://www.montevideo.com.uy/Noticias/Intendente-recibio-a-recicladores-uc279253

[2] Newspaper El Pais: “Clasificadores: el 74% cursó hasta primaria; solo el 0,4% terminó el liceo”
https://www.elpais.com.uy/informacion/sociedad/clasificadores-curso-primaria-termino-liceo.html

[4] Plan of Labour Reconversion of the Municipality of Montevideo, Argentina.
http://montevideo.gub.uy/institucional/noticias/reconversion-de-clasificadores-de-residuos

[1] Newspaper Montevideo Portal: “Activistas y clasificadores se asociarán para eliminar los carritos tirados por caballos a tracción de sangre”
https://www.montevideo.com.uy/Noticias/Activistas-y-clasificadores-se-asociaran-para-eliminar-los-carritos-tirados-por-caballos-a-traccion-de-sangre-uc270287

[5] News of the Municipality: Avanza sustitución de caballos por motocarros en clasificación
http://www.montevideo.gub.uy/noticias/institucional/avanza-sustitucion-de-caballos-por-motocarros-en-clasificacion

Meta information

Contributor:Valeria Calvas
Last update12/10/2019

Images

 

Demonstration of animal activists and waste pickers.

Photo by Montevideo Portal Newspaper: https://imagenes.montevideo.com.uy/imgnoticias/201209/_W933_80/375613.jpg

Waste picker with its cart draught by a horse in Montevideo

Photo by Montevideo Portal Newspaper: https://imagenes.montevideo.com.uy/imgnoticias/201201/_W933_80/350709.jpg

New motorcars provided by the Municipality of Montevideo to waste pickers.

Photo by the Municipality of Montevideo: https://imagenes.montevideo.com.uy/imgnoticias/201209/_W933_80/375613.jpg

Demonstration of animal activists and waste pickers.

Photo by Montevideo Portal Newspaper: https://imagenes.montevideo.com.uy/imgnoticias/201209/_W933_80/375613.jpg

Waste picker with its cart draught by a horse in Montevideo

Photo by Montevideo Portal Newspaper: https://imagenes.montevideo.com.uy/imgnoticias/201201/_W933_80/350709.jpg

New motorcars provided by the Municipality of Montevideo to waste pickers.

Photo by the Municipality of Montevideo: https://imagenes.montevideo.com.uy/imgnoticias/201209/_W933_80/375613.jpg