Tribute to Recycling Workers

Hace 17 días que fue el día de los y las trabajadoras, pero nunca es tarde…

Tribute to Recycling Workers

Photo: Cooperativa El Ceibo

Photo: Cooperativa El Ceibo

On this International Workers Day (May 1) we celebrate recycling workers around the world, who build community resilience, replenish the earth’s natural resource base, and resist polluting corporations that threaten our common future.

Millions of workers are part of this transformative economic path. While organizing to build recognition and respect for their critical ecological services, they labor to recover industrial society’s discards for reuse and remanufacturing, and rebuild the soil and local energy grids through composting and biogas. Recycling workers demonstrate what it takes to put theory into practice and create local living economies that protect livelihoods and the environment at the same time.

Last month, Nohra Padilla won the Goldman Environmental Prize for organizing recycling workers in Bogota, Colombia, and this video shows how their efforts have served to improve the livelihoods and working conditions for Bogota recyclers, while shifting government policies towards a resource recovery economy. She is not alone. The Latin American Recyclers Network brings together strong organizing from Chile to Brazil to Nicaragua to Venezuela, and many countries in between, and similar networks in India and South Africa are also uniting workers on the front lines of struggles for both economic and climate justice.

Moving toward recycling also can help address unemployment in the Global North:

  • Long established data from Institute for Local Self Reliance and others shows that reuse, recycling, and composting create far more jobs than burning or burying waste.
  • Unions like the Teamsters, SEIU, ILWU are supporting recycling workers and others in the recycling system across the U.S.

By supporting recycling workers and their unions, we can ensure that these are safe, quality jobs, with family-supporting wages. We invite you to join us in honoring these environmental heroes, and supporting the creation of just and sustainable economies through zero waste!


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