Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Speaking at the United Nations
negotiations on climate change, leaders of wastepicker organizations
denounced waste-to-energy technologies and demanded recognition and
financial support for their contribution to fighting climate change.

“Our work is dirty and hard, but it has real benefits for the larger
society: recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves
resources. Governments should recognize our work and cooperate with
our efforts to improve our working conditions and increase recycling,”
said Maya Khodave of Nashik, India. Ms. Khodave is a leader of a union
of wastepickers, Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat and Lokvikas
which works on the rights of 3000 waste pickers in the city of Nashik.

“Currently, we get no ID card and no benefits. These would help us
carry out our work more safely and securely,” she continued. “But we
can do more. With a little grant money, we can increase our recycling
and produce biogas from the organic waste, instead of sending it to

The decomposition of organic waste in landfills is a leading source of
methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Waste prevention, reuse and
recycling are among the cheapest and most effective strategies to
combat climate change by reducing use of energy from materials
extraction, production, consumption and disposal, thus reducing
greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, the UNFCCC has taken scant
notice of waste or wastepickers. The Clean Development Mechanism
(CDM) has supported waste incinerators and landfill gas systems which
incentivize increased waste disposal and displace wastepickers.

“The CDM is a big problem for us,” Ms. Khodave said. “It finances
private companies which are burning waste which instead could be
recycled and composted. That increases emissions and hurts us
economically.” A new report, Respect for Recyclers, documents that the
CDM has backed approximately 185 incinerators and landfill gas
projects, but no recycling projects.

“Carbon markets are too volatile to provide reliable finance for
wastepickers,” said the report’s author, Neil Tangri of the Global
Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). “A global climate fund
which would directly support their grassroots organizations as well as
local and national governments is needed.”


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