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A struggle for waste pickers


A struggle for recognition and inclusivity of waste pickers

Every  1st  march, millions of people worldwide who make a living from collecting, sorting ,recycling and selling waste materials collected from dumpsites and household connect to celebrate one day after 364 days of struggle without being  formally recognized .Most  encounter many social stigmas and harassment  in their line of work yet they are the unsung heroes of recycling  world. How can we ensure that their work does not go unrecognized or unrewarded?

In Kenya, Inclusion is a major challenge with waste pickers viewed as minority yet they are the backbone of recycling industry .They face discrimination by not being invited to attend public debates on policy making in the waste management sector which makes them to remain uninformed and easily manipulated by brokers in the recycling industry. Without a formal recognized coalition their voice remains unheard and cannot negotiate for better working conditions

To celebrate Global Waste picker’s day, Center for Environmental Justice and Development, CEJAD complied highlights from struggles and victories in the waste picking sector and what inclusion means to them after successful mapping in 4 counties to understand how to push for a policy on inclusion and mobilize waste pickers to form a coalition of waste pickers in Kenya. The meeting was held in Kisumu with waste pickers from Kachok dumpsite. The objective of the celebration was to sensitize waste pickers on the need to be organized and formalized for them to be integrated into the formal waste management

For the realization of the updated Nationally Determined Contributors NDC, the implementation of waste management should be tasked with waste pickers and the county governments to formulate policies on zero waste and also job creation in waste industry.

What would happen if waste pickers formed an Alliance? It would end and reduce the increasing fights for territories at the dumpsite and integrate them into circular economy with one voice, recognition and inclusivity.


Circular economy in Kenya will be successful if waste pickers are recognized like any other professionals and given a chance in national dialogue   for they reuse, repair and minimizes use of resource inputs and at the end they provide raw materials for manufacturing industry.

Patricia M Kombo

Centre for Environmental Justice and Development


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