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Ankara wastepickers struggle to be formally incorporated into the legal waste collecting framework, Turkey

New technologies and economic structures led to increases in Turkey’s recycling rate but 500.000 wastepickers are excluded from commercial gains in the recycling and waste collection sector.


Background information on waste management in Turkey as a whole

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Ankara wastepickers struggle to be formally incorporated into the legal waste collecting framework, Turkey
State or province:Ankara
Location of conflict:Ankara
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Plastic and Paper
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The actors mentioned are all actively working on the recognition of wastepickers and their future incorporation in the legal waste collecting sector. But so far there hasn't been a concrete project with the aim of accomplishing this. The only step that has been taken is the establishment of a pilot project in which wastepickers who are active at the border of the Ankara municipality have received free new clothes and medical screening.

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:8000-15000
Start of the conflict:01/09/2006
Company names or state enterprises:TÜDAM from Turkey - Municipal waste collecting teams pick up waste and deliver it to the licensed firms in this association
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning
Ministry of Labour and Social Security
Ministry of Customs and Trade
Ankara Municipality Waste Collection Teams
International and Finance InstitutionsInternational Labour Organization (ILO) from Switzerland
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ankara Street Waste Collectors Association (Sokak Atık Toplayıcıları Derneği)
Recycling Workers/Waste Picker Association (Geri Dönüşüm İşçileri Derneği/Atık Kağıt İşçileri)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Street protest/marches
Some small protests took place in 2007 and 2009. Now there is an ongoing dialogue with municipalities, national ministries and trade unions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Waste overflow
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Infectious diseases
Other Health impactsThe wastepickers have no access to health insurance and their accommodation is subject to health risks
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:Turkey’s biggest labour union, TÜRK-İŞ, has recently also become involved with waste pickers. In the beginning of 2019, TÜRK-İŞ made a contract with a local municipality in Ankara in which they agreed on waste picker’s working conditions. This resulted in the development of a pilot study where the waste pickers who work on the border of this municipality were given new clothes and a free medical screening. Based on the success of this project, TÜRK-İŞ and the Ministry will take steps to spread the project to the whole of Turkey [8]. Recep Karaman of the Street Waste Collectors Association(Sokak Atık Toplayıcıları Derneği) has warmly welcomed the effort by TÜRK-İŞ to make the issue of waste pickers visible and increasing social awareness [6].
Given the heavy reliance of both shopkeepers and sorting and collecting facilities on wastepickers, the Street Waste Collectors Association demands that the budgets allocated to the municipal teams should include wastepickers. In other words, informal wastepickers need to be integrated into the municipal wastecollecting teams in order to receive social security [10]. This effort is an ongoing process as Karaman is currently conducting negotiations with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and aims to integrate wastepickers in the municipal wastecollecting teams as part of Turkey’s nation-wide “Zero Waste Regulation” [11].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:So far, this effort is only taking place in one of Ankara's municipalities. Depending on its success it will expand to the rest of Ankara or the rest of Turkey. But such a project still doesn't say much on whether informal wastepickers will eventually be either employed, self-employed and receive the right for social security.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[8] Email exchange with Dr. Serter Oran, Assistant Professor at Zonguldak University. Author of PhD Dissertation on the class positions of waste pickers in Ankara
[click to view]

[1] Will waste pickers in Turkey join the Unemployed army?
[click to view]

[2] What is the value of waste? - In Turkish
[click to view]

[3] Waste Disposal and Recovery Facilities Statistics, 2014
[click to view]

[4] Turkey’s plastic waste imports from the UK are booming – but at what cost?
[click to view]

[5] China's plastic trash ban is spur to recycle: U.N. Environment
[click to view]

[6] Iftar dinner from TURK-IS to paper collectors
[click to view]

[7] Paper collectors across Turkey cry out against public prejudice
[click to view]

[9] Waste collectors protest municipalities - In Turkish
[click to view]

[10] We don't do a wrong job - In Turkish
[click to view]

[11] Turkey's zero-waste project wastes no effort in fight for environment
[click to view]

[14] About TÜDAM
[click to view]

[15] Press release TÜDAM "There’s a fire in the waste sector. Turkey is not the world’s dumpster" - In Turkish
[click to view]

[16] Vedat Kılıç, Chairmain of TÜDAM
[click to view]

[17] Step forward for wastepickers in Turkey
[click to view]

[19] No smell is heard in the Mamak dump, 2006
[click to view]

[21] Municipal police attacked waste paper workers, 2008
[click to view]

No smell is heard in the Mamak dump, 2006
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[12] Facebook Page Ankara's Recycling Workers/Waste Picker Association
[click to view]

[13] Twitter Page Recycling Workers/Waste Picker Association
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Chandni Dwarkasing - EnvJustice ICTA-UAB
Last update21/12/2019
Conflict ID:4285
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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