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Commemoration of International Waste Pickers Day

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International Waste Pickers Day is commemorated annually on March 1st in honour of eleven Waste Pickers that were brutally killed in a Colombian University in 1992. On that terrible day, the waste pickers were tricked by personnel from the Universidad Libre de Barranquilla, who invited them to enter into the premises of the university under the pretence of providing them with recyclable waste materials. Once inside they were beaten and shot to death so that their bodies could be used for medical research and organ trafficking.

Waste pickers often commemorate this day in remembrance of this tragic incident, and to bring to the fore the challenges confronting informal waste pickers as they struggle to make a living and support their families. So on the occasion of the International Waste Picker’s Day, the Kpone Landfill Waste Pickers Association wish to join our colleagues in Ghana and the Global Alliance of Waste Pickers in remembrance of the tragedy of this day in history and to reiterate the many of challenges confronting waste pickers when undertaking their legitimate activities. We wish to send our heartfelt compassion and solidarity to ALL waste pickers in Ghana and abroad who are still faced with stigmatisation, disrespected, excluded, threatened and in some instances having to lose their lives through their struggle as waste pickers.

In Ghana, as elsewhere, the contributions of waste pickers to solid waste management and environmentalservicesareessential. Ourworkaswastepickersisimportantinmanyways. We earn income to take care of ourselves, our family members and send our children to school. We also provide the recycling companies with a regular supply of recovered materials from the landfill site, who in turn pay taxes to the government. We help to prolong the lifespan of landfill sites by diverting large quantities of materials into the circular economy; and we help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, prior to our displacement from the Kpone Landfill, waste pickers prevented the emission of 23,500 Tonnes of eCO2, through recycling materials and preventing them from being burned on the site.


Yet waste pickers are one of the vulnerable groups that have been hardest hit in times of global and national crisis. A recent study conducted by WIEGO on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on informal workers in Accra showed that we waste pickers and our families are facing the brunt of the pandemic. Results from the study showed that waste pickers have reduced earnings mainly due to reduction in the prices and volumes of recyclable waste materials. The study reveals that waste pickers did not receive any COVID relief assistance from the government and we purchased our own Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) although our activities are essential services. Despite our contributions to environmental protection, we live in communities that are underserved by waste collection, where we must open, dump and burn our waste due to lack of resources and support.

Therefore, on the occasion of this year’s International Waste Picker’s Day, we the Kpone Landfill Waste Pickers Association wish to highlight the following concerns:
1. The Kpone landfill site is the main source of income and livelihood for about 500 waste pickers and their families, the decision by government to proceed with the decommissioning and reengineering of the Kpone landfill site without due consultation with waste pickers or provision of livelihood safeguarding measures has had dire consequences for the livelihoods of waste pickers and their families.

2. Government should target waste pickers as a group in need of COVID-19 relief support measures. Immediate efforts should be made to support waste pickers with appropriate PPEs, food items, financial aid, medical aid and other necessities to address the extraordinary drop in earnings and increase in stress and risk caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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3. While we have over the years provided critical services in municipal solid waste management (SWM) in the country, we are still not integrated into municipal SWM systems. We therefore urge Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to integrate waste pickers into the solid waste management systems through the provision of contracts for recycling service provision and secure conditions for work.

4. We the waste pickers working on the Kpone Landfill Site have been proactively exploring and piloting waste collection services in low-income coastal communities that are underserved by the current system. Now we need to be supported by the government and private sector with the requisite logistics, infrastructure, and financial support to secure community waste management contracts from MMDAs. Expanding doorstep waste collection to underserved communities through the provision of contracts for waste pickers will simultaneously reduce environmental pollution, prevent greenhouse gas emission by preventing open burning, reduce economic precarity by integrating waste pickers into formal systems, and reduce the environmental and sanitary injustices associated with poor waste management in underserved communities.

5. Whereas waste pickers are a key stakeholder involved in waste management and providing environmental services in the country, we are not recognized as such. We therefore wish to use this remarkable day to call for the recognition of, and effective inclusion of waste pickers through our membership-based organisations in decision making processes and structures that have implications for waste pickers.

Kindly contact Bro. Divine Dekonor (Secretary of the Association) on 0551332614 should you require any further clarifications or information.
Long live the global solidarity of waste pickers!!
Johnson Doe
Chairman, Kpone Landfill Waste Pickers Association

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