Recognition, Redistribution and Popular Participation: Towards an Integrative Judicial Policy

Cooperatives and waste pickers debate waste policy in Sul-Fluminense

October 10th, 2019

On 21 September 2019, the Center for Human Promotion (CPH) of Barra Mansa, State of Rio, hosted the Diocesan Seminar “Taking Care of our Waste: Collection, Transport and Disposal of Solid Waste with Environmental Responsibility and Social Commitment”, which involved a total of 75 people from six municipalities of the South Fluminense region, namely Resende, Quatis, Barra do Pirai, Pinheiral, Volta Redonda and Barra Mansa. The main audience of the meeting consisted of waste pickers who brought their experiences of work individually or in collective organization. The objective was to promote a meeting with the solid waste policy actors in the region, creating a climate of listening, sharing the challenges and commitments to take care of the Common House, as Pope Francis Laudato Si.

The event was promoted by the Diocese of Barra do Piraí / Volta Redonda, Justice Forum and Dom Hélder Câmara Solidarity Economy Network. In addition to the organizations they supported, the National Waste Pickers Movement and ANCAT also attended. The Bishop of the Diocese, Monsignor Luiz Henrique da Silva Brito, gave a hopeful greeting and pledged to accompany and support the organization of the pickers present at the seminar, which points to the strengthening of the movement in the region.

The initial methodology enabled a group dynamic in which everyone wrote their parents' names and made a “rabiola” with the names, in order to thank life and parents, gathering all the energy from parenthood. Then, as a group, we discussed what we can do together and what each one is willing to change and put in place to take care of the disposal of solid waste.

The concept of Ubuntu stood out "I am because we are" and also the importance of love of neighbor in the treatment of this theme of the inclusion of pickers in the selective collection. One conclusion was that women waste pickers, in their daily struggle, should strengthen themselves and look at each other differently so as not to be silent anymore. Many times, they have been denied the right to speak, today they fight so that they can have this right protected. Among the proposals presented by the collective were:

  1. Awareness of society to cooperate and support cooperatives;
  2. School awareness through a teaching methodology that provides criticality to students, appreciation and respect for waste pickers;
  3. Municipal social programs for the inclusion of street pickers and selective collection;
  4. Mapping of the agents involved, so that they can have more visibility before the public power;
  5. Cooperation of partners who collaborate daily with waste pickers and understanding of the importance of cooperative work;
  6. Compliance with relevant legislation by the government, in particular by the head of the municipal executive branch;
  7. Respect for nature and its beauty;
  8. Awareness of the population about improper disposal;
  9. Recycling in the family environment and the separation of recyclable waste;
  10. Transmit the demands of the pickers to the leaders of the waste policies, in order to find a solution to the embarrassments between the public power and the pickers;
  11. Unity between all those involved in the process;
  12. Need for recognition of the picker as a worker and his rights;
  13. School awareness and differentiation between waste and recyclable material. The concept of waste and its destruction;
  14. Need for awareness of the population and also of children. The exchange of knowledge is essential and the “word of mouth”, by the words of one of the pickers;
  15. The importance of the role played by the Public Prosecution Service and the need for recognition in cooperatives by it;
  16. Need for packaging to return to businesses and become packaging again;
  17. The training of the collector for labor activity. Need for personal protective equipment to protect the health of waste pickers;
  18. Importance of environmental awareness and how to separate waste;
  19. Importance of public power for environmental education;
  20. Need for advancement in hiring cooperatives and remuneration of waste pickers;
  21. Importance of the connection between sectors and social support.

Building a good living society requires recognition, visibility, respect for waste pickers and environmental education. “Today is tomorrow's seed!". "Garbage collection without waste pickers is garbage." Thus, it was explained by the participants the indispensability of the pickers in the selective collection.

Working together with the social movements, churches, communities and the public management of the municipalities of the Diocese is fundamental for the construction of a solidary economy model for reusable waste. The National Solid Waste Law (Law No. 12.305 / 2010), which conceptualizes waste and indicates its social role and considered by present waste pickers as one of the most advanced in the world, has been frontally disregarded by the government.

The event includes a systemic exercise in positioning social actors from selective collection. The activity was based on the feelings of the participants who were invited to assume roles in a scenario that represented the power play within the scope of selective collection, including their own. tasters, in selective collectThe companies (material buyers), the prefecture, in public defense, in diocese, in legislation and environmental license.

In the initial scenario, tasters stood facing the selective collect, behind which were the companies material buyers and the prefecture. Even with the approach of diocese and from public defense with the pickers, the setting gathering prefecture, companies e selective collect did not change. Another interesting detail is that the environmental license and legislation remained all the time distant not only from the collectors, but also from selective collect. Even with the inclusion of new elements such as the environmental education, which stood next to the tasters and union of pickers close to companies and from prefecture, as a way of putting pressure on them in some way, this composition of forces among these actors selective collect remained unchanged. At the end of the dynamic, tasters verified the need to position themselves next to the companies as a form of “empowerment”, due to the adverse scenario. It was concluded from this exercise that there is a configuration of forces unfavorable to the pickers and difficult to break, and that the positioning of the tasters next to companies It is not a guarantee that such a configuration will be changed and may pose a risk of co-opting cooperatives.

As a last activity, each participant said one word to describe the meeting and one word on purpose. The summary document with the proposals will be delivered to the Diocese and other promoters and supporters of the event and the waste pickers of all the municipalities present.