The City of Buenos Aires has installed smart waste containers in one of the main streets of the city. One of the ministers of the city admitted that the main reason was to avoid the rummage through the waste by wastepickers. Therefore, they decided to give visibility to the fact that this means a loss of access to waste for them. Without the access to waste, their livelihoods and the ones of their families are put at risk. The answer to this demonstration was violence from the part of the Municipality and no dialogue.
On April 15th, 2019, the Municipality of the city of Buenos Aires announced the instalment of 18 smart containers in one of the main avenues of the city . The instalment of the so called “easy” containers was done by Veolia Argentina. Veolia is a company that provides environmental services worldwide . In Buenos Aires, this company is in charge of the Public Service of Urban Hygiene, namely waste management. Veolia Argentina has the rights to provide these services since 1998. The 18 smart containers were installed in the Corrientes Avenue, which is full of bars, theatres and restaurants and is one of the main touristic and leisure places. The containers remain permanently closed and they can only be opened with a magnetic card. These magnetic cards were given to the neighbours of the area. The Municipality stated that these containers were installed to improve the waste collection service to the neighbours. However, the Minister of Public Space of the city admitted that the main reason was to avoid the rummaging through the trash by waste pickers .
Wastepickers reacted strongly. These containers don’t allow them to carry on their recycling activities, which provide their livelihood. For now, the 18 containers affect only part of the wastepickers but if the Municipality decides to install more smart containers it would affect a larger part of their community. As the president of the Argentinian Organization of Wastepickers (‘Federación Argentina de Cartoneros, Carreros y Recicladores -CTEP in Spanish) stated, there are 5,000 wastepickers registered in the Municipality and this would mean the loss of 5,000 families’ livelihoods in the City of Buenos Aires .
On April 16th, 2019, wastepickers demonstrated across the street where the containers were installed. With this demonstration they condemned the Municipality’s actions. They stated that the instalment of the “anti-poor” (anti pobres in Spanish) containers aims to hide the poverty of the city instead of looking for solutions. They claim that this is another way of persecution that they suffer, whilst questioning the Municipality investment decisions .
The response of the government to this demonstration was repression. Wastepickers had already agreed to demonstrate using on side of the Corrientes Avenue. As the waste pickers took the street, they were pushed away. The organizers of the demonstration talked to the head of the police forces, and when they had already agreed to leave, tear gas was thrown at them.
The Municipality didn’t have any comment on this incident. However, the Argentinian Organization of waste pickers announced that they will keep reporting these cases of persecution as they will keep fighting for a better recycling system in the city. They will keep pursuing an inclusive and social recycling system which takes waste pickers into account.