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An exploratory analysis of organizations of waste pickers in Belo Horizonte: challenges and opportunities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic

  • The present research sought to deepen the debates about how the collector of recyclable material, a subject that has built his political resistance in the Brazilian scenario from the process of re-signification of garbage and his profession. Its empowerment observed from the end of the 20th century was concomitant with the growth of environmental discussions and the strengthening of the solidarity economy as an alternative for economic emancipation in Brazil. In this context, the individual who used to live on the margins of society established himself as a fundamental factor in the recycling chain and became an environmental agent. The question that guided the investigation was "how has the pandemic influenced waste pickers' solidarity organizations, given their challenges and opportunities?". In this context, two specific objectives were determined to be answered in the course of the research. The first sought to understand the relationship between the solidarity economy and the formation of waste picker collectives; the second aimed to identify the challenges and opportunities that could arise from these solidarity organizations' experiences. A vast theoretical analysis was conducted to understand the foundations of the Solidarity Economy, an alternative to the informal economy and a form of economic empowerment especially considered for vulnerable populations, as a way to include them economically. Using the case study of Belo Horizonte, a city with a history of alternative economic expressions and strengthened waste pickers' movements, we approached various actors of the recycling chain through qualitative research, using the in-depth interviews approach. Among other findings, the research noted that one of the greatest challenges of the post-pandemic Solidarity Economy is related to the expansion of the capitalist market to areas traditionally aggregated by the Solidarity Economy, because they were previously considered to be on the “margins of society”. However, these threats also give room for opportunities, from responses that reinforce the legitimacy of cooperatives and associations, through their contractual adequacy with the City Hall for the payment of the environmental service rendered, disconnected from the number of solid waste collected. We have learned that in the daily struggles and achievements of the waste pickers, challenges and opportunities go hand in hand.
Author:Luena A. P. Ricardo
Advisor:Eva Kirner
Document Type:Master's Thesis
Year of Completion:2021
Granting Institution:Hochschule Furtwangen
Date of final exam:2021/02/28
Release Date:2021/04/27
Tag:Brazil; Solidarity economy; Waste picker
Page Number:155
Degree Program:EBCD - International Economics, Business and Cultural Diplomacy
Functional area:Economics
Open-Access-Status: Open Access 
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt