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Bogota wastepickers’ inclusive labor conditions put at risk by change in policies, Colombia


Description:

After having gained recognition and validation of their rights in Court in 2013, the Association of waste pickers of Bogota (ARB), in Colombia, had to face serious threats to these rights. In 2013 Nohra Padilla obtained a Goldman Prize for organizing Bogota's marginalized waste pickers to make recycling a legitimate part of waste management, making their cause known around the world. [5]. The instalment in 2018 of new garbage containers without considering the informal recyclers labour rights and without educating neighbours about recycling, has worsened the waste problem in Bogota. If wastepickers keep being excluded from the policy making of waste management their recycling activities will be harder and harder to pursue. As consequence they see their rights put at risk jointly with their livelihoods.

In 2013, the Association of waste pickers of Bogota (ARB), Colombia, won a hard-fought judicial battle for the inclusion and recognition of waste pickers in the city’s waste management system. This legal battle [1] lasted over two decades and resulted in seven rulings by the Constitutional Court of Colombia in favour of wastepickers. In this way, they were recognized by the Constitutional Court of Colombia and remunerated for their waste collection, transport and public recycling services. 

However, this inclusive model has been threatened by new public policies adopted by the district of Bogotá. Eventhough there are clear rules about the wastepickers’ rights, in the present, wastepickers of Colombia and specifically of Bogotá are suffering the consequences of these policies in terms of livelihood. 

On January 2018, the waste management rights of the capital district of Bogotá was granted to the private company Bogotá Limpia [2]. Among their waste management strategies, Bogotá Limpia decided to install 10,000 new garbage containers across the district. Half of these containers would be destinated to recycled materials and the other half would be for unrecycled garbage. The instalment of the 5,000 municipal garbage containers for recycled materials was carried without any previous communication or query with the informal recyclers of the district. Further, these containers have been installed without any previous public education on how to use them. Until the instalment, wastepickers would arrange different pick up methods with the neighbours and had established their own working methods. 

As result, the inhabitants of the district are overflowing the containers and the waste is saturating the streets due to the lack of education in recycling. Waste pickers see the hard work they have been doing for years come to nothing. Moreover, the municipal trucks that are in charge of the transport of the recycled waste, are not prepared to carry this task. They’re not properly equipped and as consequence they increase the problem of waste [3].

The district of Bogota has decided to go on with its waste management policies without considering the wastepickers’ livelihoods. The consequences of these policies not only affect waste pickers but also the inhabitants of the district. They have suffered a drastic change in relation with their waste disposal habits. While the municipality keep setting up new policies without taking into account wastepickers, it runs the right to violate the constitutional law.

Waste pickers are not against the instalment of new garbage containers. They agree with the need of improving the different recycling facilities of the city. But they want to be taken into account in order to keep doing their job in the most efficient and sustainable way. In collaboration with waste pickers, the municipality could provide a better waste management service to their inhabitants and could prevent the loss of livelihoods of waste pickers. 

Currently, waste pickers in Bogota keep fighting for a more collaborative way of policy making and to be included in the future waste management strategies of the municipality.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Bogota wastepickers’ inclusive labor conditions put at risk by change in policies, Colombia
Country:Colombia
Location of conflict:Bogota
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

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In 2013 Nohra Padilla obtained a Goldman Prize for organizing Bogota's marginalized waste pickers to make recycling a legitimate part of waste management, making their cause known around the world. [5]. The instalment in 2018 of new garbage containers without considering the informal recyclers labour rights and without educating neighbours about recycling, has worsened the waste problem in Bogota.

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:More than 22,400 informal waste pickers.
Start of the conflict:01/01/2018
Company names or state enterprises:BOGOTÁ LIMPIA S.A.S. ESP from Colombia - Company implementing new policies.
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Association of waste pickers of Bogota (ARB in Spanish). Web page:
http://asociacionrecicladoresbogota.org

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Waste overflow
Potential: Air pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood
Potential: Displacement, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:So far, there has been no outcome since there has been no applied alternatives to the struggle of waste pickers in Bogota.
Development of alternatives:No alternatives have been proposed since there has been no dialogue between the two concerned parts.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The company in charge of the waste management of Bogota is still making new policies without considering waste pickers. Therefore, the conflict is still an ongoing issue for them.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

The 7 Pronouncements of the Constitutional Court: C-741 in 2003, T-724 in 2003, C-355 in 2003, C-793 in 2009, T-291 in 2009, Order 268 in 2010, Order 275 of 2011.
http://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/Abizaid-Bogota-Wastepicker-Recycling-Case-Study.pdf

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[2] BOGOTÁ LIMPIA S.A.S. ESP
http://www.bogotalimpia.com

[4] Official data set of waste pickers in Bogota.
https://datosabiertos.bogota.gov.co/dataset/data-set-aprovechamiento-registro-unico-de-recicladores-de-oficio

[1] ARB: fighting for an Inclusive Model for recycling in Bogota
http://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/resources/files/Abizaid-Bogota-Wastepicker-Recycling-Case-Study.pdf

[3] Federico Parra’s article about the critical situation of waste pickers in Colombia, specifically in Bogota.
http://www.wiego.org/blog/colombia-global-model-inclusive-recycling-under-threat

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Nohra Padilla, Goldman Prize 2013, Question and Answer
https://www.goldmanprize.org/blog/2013-prize-qa-with-nohra-padilla/

[5] Nohra Padilla, Goldman Prize 2013, Question and Answer
https://www.goldmanprize.org/blog/2013-prize-qa-with-nohra-padilla/

Meta information

Contributor:Valeria Calvas
Last update15/09/2019

Images

 

New garbage containers in Bogota.

http://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/reports/Parra-2019-Bogota-waste-pickers.jpg

Waste trucks not well equipped for recycled materials in Bogota.

Photo by Federico Parra: http://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/reports/2019-Bogota-Parra-waste-recyclers.jpg

Municipal waste in Bogota overflowing new garbage containers.

Photo by Federico Parra: http://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/reports/Parra-2019-Bogota-municipal-waste-1.jpg

New garbage containers in Bogota.

http://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/reports/Parra-2019-Bogota-waste-pickers.jpg

Waste trucks not well equipped for recycled materials in Bogota.

Photo by Federico Parra: http://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/reports/2019-Bogota-Parra-waste-recyclers.jpg

Municipal waste in Bogota overflowing new garbage containers.

Photo by Federico Parra: http://www.wiego.org/sites/default/files/reports/Parra-2019-Bogota-municipal-waste-1.jpg