Last Friday I spoke with Madalena Duarte about her life and struggles and this is her message to the Cancun delegation:
"I am a waste picker since the age of 7. At that time I was a street vendor - I sold biscuits and cakes made by my mom. Out of curiousity one day I asked Dona Barbara, a next door neighbour, why she came back home everyday with a pile of cardboard. She told me then she made a living out of collecting recyclables. I then reasoned that this could be a good idea for me to help out my mom and this is how I began to work at the open dump in Itaúna.
I left the open dump at the age of 37 in 1999 to be the one of the founders of the waste pickers association COOPERT with 23 other pickers. We have a good partnership with the municipality since our foundation. The municipality collects the materials and takes them to a recycling warehouse where we work. The municipality hired this building and we have an agreement to use this building. In the beginning the municipality paid all the bills for the maintenance of this warehouse but slowly we managed to earn enough to pay for some of our own bills. The municipality is building a proper warehouse which will be ours.
I am at the MNCR since its foundation and today I am one of its representative at LAWPN. In my state, Minas Gerais, we are discussing and trying to understand how waste pickers can find a niche in the solid waste systems and not loose a livelihood. We are struggling for payment for environmental services. We have some cities that are already doing this such as Londrina, Araxá, Brumadinho.....
I want to send my greetings to the Cancun delegation,
Madalena Duarte - COOPERT- MNCR Minas Gerais"