Recycling’s big business: do waste co-ops lose out?

1 Feb 2017

Waste pickers in Turkey are looking to organise themselves into worker co-operatives to gain access to adequate incomes, social justice and healthcare.

It is estimated that there are approximately 500,000 waste pickers across Turkey, a job done predominantly by migrants active in the informal economy.

On 20-21 December 2016 the International Labour Organization, together with the Ministry of Customs and Trade General Directorate of Cooperatives of Turkey, hosted a workshop on Waste Pickers’ Access to Social Security through Cooperatives. The event took place at the ILO’s headquarters in Ankara.

Fehmi Celikok, a waste picker of paper and cardboard in Ankara, attended the workshop. A 32-year-old Kurd from Hakkari, Mr Celikok picks waste all day and has no access to social security.

Joining the other participants, he heard from listened to co-operators from Argentina and France as well as Turkish government officials. They explored how to improve the lives of waste pickers, and the role that the co-operative model plays in ensuring adequate incomes, social justice and health care for those workers.

Photo: Participants at the ILO Waste Pickers Workshop, held in Ankara, Turkey, 20-21 December, 2016 (c) ILO

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